Licking the Baby. Confused and Worried.

Chip was licking the baby’s face as she sat on the floor. Now that baby is becoming mobile, Chip is becoming increasingly troubled by her when she moves or makes a noise.

Her licking the baby is compulsive.

When baby is sitting on the floor at the same level as Chip, the dog simply can’t relax or leave her alone. There is no stillness or growling, simply concern. She keeps licking her face.

It doesn’t take a dog expert to read Chip’s worry in the photo as she watches the baby from the sofa.

Each time she started licking baby’s facelicking the baby, stressed and confused, mum or dad told her ‘No!’. They are understandably on edge all the time the two are together. Chip is a very well-loved dog and it’s hard.

A calm dog licking the baby in passing is very different to a seriously aroused dog repeatedly licking the baby on the face.

I’m sure the couple’s anxiety and constant necessary ‘nagging’ of Chip is contributing to the situation.

I immediately began calling Chip away from the baby, rewarding her for coming. Soon we introduced the clicker.

After a while Chip was just looking at the baby and voluntarily turning away – which we marked with a click and food.

However, stress builds up and Chip’s arousal level became such that she became increasingly slow in responding to being called away. She was snatching the food when she did come.

Well before things are able to get to this stage the two should be separated, but how?

The environment needs to be better managed.

There was nowhere to put dear little Chip apart from excluding her from the room behind a door.

Before the baby arrived, the four-year-old Jack Russell went everywhere with them. Their jobs involve touring and staying in different places. They always took Chip. She was given plenty of attention by all the people they met and loves people – if not so good with other dogs.

With the arrival of the baby a year ago, Chip’s life has been turned upside down. The couple are unable to enjoy her in the way they did and her own life is very different.

One simple thing can change Chip’s compulsively licking the baby. It will change everything. They will all be able to relax.

They will get a small dog pen.

Chip has been used to a pen from an early age when they travelled. They can put all her toys in it along with other special things for her to do and to chew. They can sprinkle her food in there.

Within the safety of the pen, they can build up strong and positive associations with the baby. Chip won’t have to be excluded.

It seems she feels possessive or protective of the baby. This is born out when other dogs approach the buggy – she does tend to guard things form other dogs.

Possibly some of the licking is about covering the frequently washed baby’s face with her own scent? That’s just a guess.

As baby gets even more mobile it’s important she’s unable to corner Chip who must always have a baby-proof bolt-hole. A pen can be opened out and adapted.

Chip’s signals of unease are very clear when you know what you’re looking for.

Baby was upstairs for a while and her crying came through the baby monitor. Chip licked her lips. Uneasy. Worried. This is an opportunity to give her a little bit of food. Every time she looks at the baby or hears her, they can pair it with food. She need not eat all her meals in bowls – her food can be used for something more useful for now.

Though they are able to give her quality time when the baby is in bed, Chip’s walks aren’t what they used to be. It’s hard to negotiate some of the best walks pushing a buggy and it’s also hard to beat a hasty retreat if a bouncy young dog comes running up, jumping all over her and around the buggy. Chip never has liked her space invaded by other dogs.

A positive approach by the couple, replacing scolding and anxiety when Chip is near the baby with reward and encouragement, should transform things.

Physical management is vital – the pen. I also suggest a soft harness and longish lead for when they are somewhere else. This way Chip can be comfortably restrained, called away from the baby, rewarded – and then gently kept away instead of constantly being watched.

With management in place they will be able to work on getting Chip happier and more relaxed around the baby. She should then also become less stressed in general.

Chip can get some of her old life back.

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Chip. 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, particularly where babies or young children are concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page)

An Excitable English Bull Terrier

English Bull TerrierThe afternoon consisted of calm, affectionate moments with the lovely Ty punctuated with fresh attempts to jump all over me – which can be uncomfortable when a dog stands beside you on the sofa, licking your face and trying to nip your ear! Understandably nobody likes this, but if telling him off worked he wouldn’t be doing it any more.

The twenty month old English Bull Terrier didn’t have a good start in life. His first year was with two older, larger dogs and it seems he had to fight for his food and has injuries to show for it. He was very underweight when they got him.

When he was strong enough they had him castrated, a requirement of most rescues, and from that moment Ty, who had previously been absolutely fine with other dogs despite his early months, became fearful and reactive. Castration doesn’t always have positive effects behaviourally – the reduction in testosterone possibly taking away some of his mojo.

The very excitable Ty lives with the most easy-going Golden Labrador – Amber, age two. They get on famously. The couple’s excellent dog parenting that had worked so well with happy and well-mannered Amber has helped Ty a lot over the past eight months, but they are still struggling. His excitability means he’s a bit unpredictable. His jumping up is a bit crazy, his licking of people a bit manic, he barks at ‘everything’, he sometimes tail-chases when particularly frustrated and he is obsessed with balls. He has shown his wariness to one man in particular by snarling at him. On walks he is anxious around other dogs and they hold him tight – not trusting him. They do join a group ‘bully’ walk of a large group of local bull-breeds. Once the group is on the move, his lead comes off and he is fine.

Golden Labroador on sofa with EBT

Ty with Amber

I feel the unpredictability and excitement need working on at home before they will make much headway when out. It’s not like there is one single problem, though their main wish is to be able to enjoy walks and trust him to come back to them when other dogs are about.

If Ty doesn’t pay attention to them at home, he won’t do so when out. They will work hard at getting and holding his attention – using food. They will be surprised how much more motivated he will become when they use tiny bits of tasty real food as reinforcement. If he doesn’t come immediately or do as asked at home, then he certainly won’t come back when out on walks.  Again – it’s a matter of motivation. If he doesn’t see them as his protectors at home, then he won’t do so when they are out. Everything is interconnected.

Excitement builds up. The jumping, licking, nipping and so on should simply not get results, but when he’s in this sort of mood his excitement should be redirected onto something more acceptable that will help to calm him – like an item to chew or some foraging for food outside.

Walks will only really improve when he learns that they go nowhere until he is calm – so this will take a lot of patience and waiting so he’s no longer so excitable when they leave. They will now help him to gain his confidence at whatever distance he needs to be from other dogs he sees in order to feel comfortable.

He’s a young dog. They have come a long way already and it can only continue to get better.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ty, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. 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 Help page).

Cocker Spaniel a Naughty Dog?

Yesterday I visited a 9-month-old Cocker Spaniel called Willow.  Wonderful!  My own irrepressible Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, has given me some good practice.

Here is a list of things Willow does: Jumping up on people, excessive licking of people’s faces, jumping at the table and sides, barking (answering) back when told off, too much noise generally, steaCocker Spaniel Willow's white tailling any items she can get hold of and running off with them, leading the lady a merry dance and getting cross when cornered, humping people, fixating and barking at certain objects, jumping over people and furniture, racing at speed round and round the room and growling when eventually caught and restrained, shoving toys at her people to make them play with her, pulling on lead and, finally, chasing the cat. Oh – and running back to the car on walks.

All this may sound amusing to read, but it can be exasperating and has reduced the poor lady to tears and it’s no wonder she thinks Willow is just a naughty dog.Bored Cocker Willow does everything she can think of to get attention

Willow really is adorable as you can see – and see the white tail? She is a soft, affectionate little girl, However, two or three walks where she’s encouraged to keep moving and not sniff too much, just isn’t sufficient for her. She is not a naughty dog. She is a BORED dog.

The family is on the back foot, trying to ‘field’ the things that Willow throws at them rather than themselves being proactive. She is a clever, working dog with insufficient appropriate stimulation so she is constantly finding ways to fulfil herself. She spends quite bit of time in the ‘naughty’ room.

‘No’ is a much used word.  In the three hours I was there we consistently looked for ways of saying ‘Yes’, and rewarding her with food. The lady was becoming really good at looking for the good rather than the bad and Willow was getting the message, becoming really focussed.

It is only fair on a dog to let her know what you don’t want in a language she really understands. ‘No’ and ‘Get Down’ or pushing are very confusing messages when the dog wants attention, because they ARE attention.

If a dog is jumping all over me I consider how another dog would make his feeling clear to a bouncy adolescent. Would not a stable dog look away, turn away, maybe tip her off and walk away? The other dog would probably signal when he saw her coming, making his feelings clear from the start. Showing the behaviour isn’t wanted is only part of the exercise. Just as importantly we then need to follow-up by showing her just what we do want. If it’s ‘feet on the floor’ we want, then that is when she gets the attention.

Giving Willow a more fulfilled life requires being creative and offering alternative incompatible behaviours instead of scolding or ‘no’, and constantly reinforcing the desired behaviours. They will need to go cold turkey on the barking for attention whilst scheduling into the day the sort of activities that satisfy her canine Spaniel instincts – mostly nose-based. She needs plenty to keep her busy. When the family want to watch TV in peace, they need to instigate short bursts of activity themselves – during the advert breaks perhaps. She could have a hunting game, training games, a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block or a toy or chew kept aside especially.

Gradually, over time and with the help of food rewards, Willow will be looking for ways to get attention by pleasing them.  A different mindset for owners – looking for the good instead of the bad – can really help.

It’s the next day and I have just received this email: ‘We found all you said made absolute sense and we are now looking at interacting with Willow with fresh eyes.  Some things are so obvious it is almost embarrassing to have not realised it! Today we went for a couple of walks and it was so much more relaxed letting Willow do as much sniffing as she wanted rather than thinking she shouldn’t be doing it and trying to get her to walk on.  Also, I did as advised re meal times and she ate the meals!  Amazing! We have bought her a Stagbar and some other toys for playing with in the evening.  At the moment she is lying quieting asleep – perhaps dreaming of the fun day she’s had today! There is obviously a lot of work to do and reinforce but I feel much more confident and relaxed’!
And four weeks after my visit: ‘The advice you gave us has been invaluable and has changed so many things we were doing with Willow and have already seen some good improvement’.
Here is a message eighteen months after I met Willow: I now know we go for ‘smells’ rather than ‘walks’! What I have discovered in the last two years, is what an amazingly intelligent and quick learner she is! She is still challenging sometimes, but we try to preempt her e.g. Making sure we don’t leave dining chairs pulled out otherwise she gets up on the dining table too! Willow and I are still ‘learning’ but it’s been so much fun!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Willow, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. 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 Help page).

Constantly Chewing Herself

JRBella2Jack Russell Bella is constantly nibbling, sucking and chewing herself – or scratching.

She has many seasonal allergies and allergies to food, but the nibbling and sucking was something else. The intensity and manner in which she was chewing herself looked to me like she was deliberately shutting out the world.

How could this be when she is loved so much?

I could see that she was enormously stressed. In fact, the lady and her daughter were also anxious and fearful – mostly about Bella, something she would be picking up on.

The dog is the centre of their universe. She is treated very excitedly whether it is physical play, cuddles or when one of them arrives home.  I have found that constant focus on a dog can be a burden for it – as it would for us. Caring owners however should never beat themselves up when they are doing things with the very best of intentions.

I experimented and found she liked being touched very gently but not vigorously at all. A little tickle behind her ears or a tickle on her chest. A hand stretched out over her made he cower slightly. It is enlightening for people to read a bit more of their dog’s body language.

Little Bella is extremely jumpy. Any small sound of a cooking utensil sends her running and she is also scared on walks – a car door slamming causes her to freeze or try to run for home.

It didn’t help that a while ago when they were out, neighbours reported a break-in and three police officers smashed through the front door with poor little Bella the other side. Also, last year a large dog got into their garden and in protecting little Bella the lady was very badly bitten and is now terrified. Watching out for dogs makes walks a nightmare for her as well. There have been some hard times.

We had a lovely evening. We gave Bella little attention – something they never would normally have considered. Instead of focussing on the scratching and sucking and constantly trying to distract or stop her, the daughter quietly gave her a tiny bit of food each time she stopped.

They said it was the calmest the house had been for years.

I have just received an email to say that Bella slept better than ever last night and didn’t wake until 9.30.

It is my bet that as she relaxes her allergies will improve and she will also stop chewing herself.

Just a couple of weeks later I have received this message: We are so happy with our beautifully behaved, quiet little dog.  The house is so quiet and calm and we really cannot believe the difference already.  She is doing so well and the only time she slips up is when I am not so on the ball (she has learnt quicker than me), but she is much younger !! it is a real learning curve for us too.
And a week after that, ‘Well, I have to say that Bella is a transformed dog, I barely recognise her, she is so different. Mum has done so well and is really firm about the new changes, and regime. I am comforted in the fact that she is so calm when I don’t make a big thing of greeting her.  It was so hard at first, I had to go into another room as I had tears in my eyes! Oh dear. Thank you so much again for all your solid advice, it makes so much sense and we could not have done it without you.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bella, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Will They Break Window to get at a Dog?

Winston watching out of the window with Jack

Winston

Doberman Jack on guard duty at the window

Jack

Jack is a large Doberman X aged about eight, and Winston is a Staffie/Chocolate Labrador mix or eighteen months. Beautiful, friendly dogs.

Jack had several homes before his present owner, and poor Winston had been kennelled from about six weeks old until he moved in with them at a year old. Considering this very unsatisfactory start in life, he is brilliant. With both dogs there are some problems that need ironing out, but the most dramatic is the barking at the window at the frequently passing dogs.

Barking and guard duty can be very stressful to a dog. Winston is a compulsive licker – licking people, chairs, the carpet – anything; he grabs ankles when people move about and when stressed he may either hump people or redirect onto Jack. So far there have been no major issues between the dogs, but it’s probably only a matter of time before Jack stands up for himself. Jack takes out his frustration and stress on his bed – humping that.

As there is nowhere for the dogs to go apart from at the front of the house, in addition to reacting to the barking in an appropriate fashion the only solution is to somehow make it impossible for them to see out – especially when the couple are out at work and not around to help the dogs. Jack is very tall, and Winston climbs onto something. He sometimes charges at the window like a battering ram and it’s only a matter of time before the window smashes and both dogs are out in the road.

The plan now is to get rid of as much stress from the dogs’ lives as possible and to keep things between the two of them well under control. Walks will eventually be a lot more pleasant with calmer dogs on loose leads , but this will take a considerable length of time.window covered with frosted plastic

I can tell already that the couple will have the patience and commitment to see this through. They have already come a long way with these two great dogs.

I visited five weeks later. the barking at the window has stopped altogether, aided with plastic covering on the bottom half that looks like frosted glass. They were struggling with Jack’s walks. See the story of my revisit and what we did.

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

Staffie Stressed and Easily Scared

Yawning - uneasy because the camera is ointing at him Max is three years old. He is gentle and affectionate, but becoming increasingly confused and nervous. The photo on the right shows hiim yawning because the camera was pointed at him – typical signs of uneasiness are yawning and lip-licking.

His companion dog died in August and things have gone downhill for him since. His lady owner is lavishing far too much physical affection on him which she is the first to admit is mostly for her own benefit whilst giving him no boundaries at all. She jumps to his bidding, even in the middle of the night. In the past he had the other dog, who was by nature a lot more confident, to share this burden.

To add to Max’ problems, fStaff Max is a gentle and affectionate dogamily members and friends who visit daily are giving all sorts of mixed messages.

He is shouted at for licking them whilst being encouraged to jump onto them. He is more or less force-fed from human plates whilst refusing to eat his own food – though he is partial to doughnuts. He only has to bark at the box, and he is given one. He is becoming increasingly scared out on walks, running back to the car at the slightest sudden noise. In fact he is reluctant to leave the house even to go into the garden to toilet, and he makes himself last nearly twenty four hours some days.

When I was there the slightest trigger sent him either into the corner or in front of the lady, shaking. She understandably then fussed and comforted him which will be reinforcing his fear (‘come to mummy she will protect you from the big bad wolf’!). She would do a lot better to ocntrol the source of his fear, if possible. However, she feels powerless to protect him from real threats, like visitors who shout and knee him for jumping up or who threaten to force him to go out and ‘behave’ when he is scared.

I know the lady is on board with my advice. I sincerely hope she has influence over her visiting family and friends – at least to the extent of leaving Max in another room where he would be perfectly happy – and insist he is left alone.

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