New Puppy. Existing Dog Isn’t Happy

A new puppy isn’t what Jack Russell Charlie wanted at all.

There were two older dogs in the house when he himself arrived as a puppy ten years ago. The three dogs got on fine. A couple of years ago both older dogs died and now they have a new puppy, Daisy.

Daisy is the sweetest nine-week-old Miniature Schnauzer.

The couple were determined that the two dogs should integrate from the start.

Unfortunately, Charlie wasn’t consulted.

the new puppy

Daisy – and temptation!

His very obvious warnings and signs of unhappiness were ignored. Instead, he was forced to accept the puppy near to himself in his own special places, like on their bed in the morning and on the sofa.

He was scolded for growling at her.

Things reached crisis point the day before I came. The man was getting ready to take him for his morning walk. Before walks there is a kind of battle that I witnessed. Charlie barks frantically and is shouted at to make him stop (if it worked he would no longer do it).

Arousal levels will have been very high.

Daisy was at the bottom of the stairs and Charlie had to get past her. He attacked the new puppy, grabbing her by the neck.

The man smacked him.

Poor Charlie. He’s never been relaxed around dogs, he has a new puppy in his house and now the man ‘attacks’ him.

This new puppy really is very bad news for poor Charlie.

looking at the new puppy

Still unhappy

This the situation I came into:

Daisy was on on the man’s lap. Charlie was on the back of the sofa, high up where the puppy can’t yet go and as far away from her as he could get. I have no doubt he chooses to be behind the man for protection.

New puppy Daisy has free roam of the open-plan house. Charlie can’t escape her. He spends a lot of his time up on the back of the sofa now.

Three things must happen if Charlie is going to eventually relax and be happy with the puppy.

Firstly Charlie must be consulted.

He is giving out strong signals. He’s trying to tell them. From the back of the sofa he was licking his lips and his body was tense. He was deliberately looking away from Daisy.

My two photos are after he had relaxed a little and Daisy was no longer on the sofa. They were taken after we had done some work with him but he still looks unhappy.

The couple can’t understand why the little dog they love is being so difficult. I wish I had a tenner for everyone who said ‘I never had any trouble like this with my previous dogs’!

By ‘consulting’ Charlie, I mean they must watch his body language. They now know what they are looking for so will see when she is too close or doing something that worries him.

They will now help him out by moving her further away to a comfortable distance.

The second thing is that Daisy needs a pen in the large area where they sit as there is nowhere to put a gate. If she is contained then Charlie can again move around freely in his own home.

They must now change how Charlie feels about the new puppy.

Looking away

Lastly and most important of all, they can change how Charlie feels about the puppy. They need to watch him carefully because in his own way he will be speaking to them.

Keeping at a distance where he’s not exhibiting fear or unease by looking away, licking lips, yawning and stiffness, they can start to make good things happen.

I helped them feed Charlie every time he glanced at Daisy before quickly looking away again. A clicker was useful to mark the exact moment because it was sometimes fleeting. He visibly relaxed a little.

With Daisy in a pen, they can reinforce much more interaction because Charlie will be more confident, eventually leading to encounters nose to nose through the bars.

He should gain confidence so long as they don’t suddenly destroy his trust again by forcing him to have her too close before he is ready. It’s so important that they take this slowly as they first have to rebuild trust already lost.

Every time that force has been used will have made Charlie feel worse.

Scolding Charlie for reacting aggressively to the new puppy does no good – the opposite in fact. The very person Charlie should trust when he’s finding things difficult suddenly seems to turn on him where he should be giving him protection. He will be associating Daisy with bad things.

It’s very confusing for a dog to be spoiled and loved one minute then unaccountably punished the next just by trying to show how he’s feeling.

He adores the man and the feeling is mutual.

So they must now work hard on getting Charlie to feel differently. They have some other things to put right, not least working on Charlie becoming calmer at certain flash points like before walks. This will never happen using shouting.

I’m sure now that they understand and have seen Charlie relax when I was with them, that they will do this sensitively and gently.

Here is a favourite video of mine graphically illustrating desensitising and counter-conditioning from Donna Hill.

 

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 Charlie. 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, most particularly where either fear or aggression is involved. 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)

Why Did Their Dog Bite a Child

In truth, the little Shih tzu has snapped at two grandchildren and one of their friends this last week. Her teeth caught the nose of the last child.

There is absolutely no way she can be called an aggressive dog. She is beautiful and friendly. It is clear that at times things simply get too much for her. Too much noise, too many people and too much pulling about by children.

Schitzu

Boy learning to touch Asha so she feels comfortable

On each occasion the atmosphere was charged with excitement so her arousal and stress levels will have been getting higher and higher until she, literally snapped. On a couple of occasions she had taken herself off to lie down in peace, and the child had gone and disturbed her.

As you can imagine, the family are deeply upset to the extent they were even fearing losing Asha. They adore their little dog but they can’t have their grandchildren or their friends bitten.

We need to look into why would their dog bite a child, and deal with that.

Having questioned the very helpful nine-year-old boy in detail who had been present on each occasion and he himself one of the victims, the reason this has escalated so fast became clear. They simply did not recognise the signs that Asha was sending out, trying to communicate that she was uncomfortable and had had enough and she was almost forced into taking things further. Some breeds’ faces are more inscrutable than others, but there probably was some yawning or looking away. The boy told me she licked her nose.

Unaware of what the little dog was trying to tell him he carried on touching her, so she now growled. Unfortunately he took no notice of that either. So, she snapped. The child recoiled and, bingo, Asha succeeded in what she had been trying to achieve from the start, which was to be left alone.

The second time it sounds like she gave just a quick growl that was ignored before snapping. The child backed off. Job done. The final time, she went straight to the snapping stage, leaping at the child’s face with no prior warning.

Asha had, in the space of just one week, learnt what worked.

Three things need to be done straight away.

Firstly, the opportunity to rehearse this behaviour ever again has to be removed. Each time snapping succeeds in giving her the space she needs, the more of a learned response it will become.

If the atmosphere is highly charged or several children come to play – they have a swimming pool so things get noisy – then the dog should be shut away (something she is perfectly happy with).

Secondly, all children coming to their house must be taught ‘the rules’ and how to ‘read Asha’. The grandson who helped me so well is going to be her ‘Protector’ and teach the other children. I have sent a couple of videos for them to watch. The dog’s ‘den’ – an area under the stairs – must be isolated and totally out-of-bounds to kids. The boy is going to make a poster!

Here are their Golden Rules:

Don’t approach and touch Asha when she’s lying down, particularly when asleep.
Let Asha choose. Wait till she comes over to you. Don’t go over to her.
Don’t go near a dog that is eating anything.
Dogs don’t like hands going over their heads. Chest is best.
If you want to run around and have noisy fun, do it away from the dogs
If you see lip-licking, yawning or if you see the whites of her eyes. STOP. Move away.
If the dog keeps looking away. STOP. Move away.
If the dog goes very still STOP. Move away.
If you hear a growl. STOP. Move away.

Because kids, being kids, may forget the ‘no touching unless she comes over to you’ rule,  I suggest when children are in the house that Asha wears something to remind them, maybe a yellow bandana or little jacket with ‘give me space’ or something similar.

The other thing in common between all three snapping incidents is that Asha was in a highly stressed state, so the third thing is helping to keep her stress levels down. There are quite a few trigger points in her life where things could be dealt with differently to help avoid stress accumulating which will mean she is a lot more tolerant and less ready to explode. I read somewhere a good saying: ‘Stress loads the gun’.

They fortunately are nipping this in the bud (no pun intended!) before it can develop further. I’m sure that with the children educated in ‘dog manners’, with any warnings heeded and things not allowed to get too exciting or overwhelming around her, Asha will feel no need to bite a child ever again.

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 Asha. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving aggression. 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).

 

A Border Collie Being a Border Collie

Shy Border CollieSasha is shy. She didn’t like me pointing my mobile phone at her for this photo. She has retreated and is doing a classic ‘lookaway’ that a dog does when feeling uncomfortable.

She lives with Joshua, a terrier. Both are rescue dogs.

Sasha is a two year old Border Collie – biddable but a bit nervous. Her owners have a couple of acres of land and the dogs can have free run. The problem comes when the dogs are alone in the garden and somebody comes through the gate.

Joshua is very vocal and will bark, but Sasha may drop down, or quietly go round behind them and bite. She has now bitten a couple of times including a plumber who had to go in and out of the front  door to his van. They can no longer trust Sasha.

Where Joshua can sound ferocious, quieter Sasha is the risk where visitors to the property are concerned. The problem only happens outside of the house and when the lady or gentleman are not out there with her. She is simply doing what many nervous or protective dogs would do, in a Border Collie sort of way, by going for the back of the legs.

Whilst Sasha’s general confidence is going to be worked on (and Joshua’s growling at his owners if they touch him or move him against his wishes!), sensible management steps need to be taken also. Sasha needs to be saved from herself. All opportunity needs to removed, because each time she nips or bites it is a skill she is improving and it will only get worse if not addressed.  If she were to injure someone seriously mainly out of fear, she could pay the ultimate price.

They are going to fence off the back of their property so that the dogs are unable to get to the gate or the front door. Then Sasha will be safe, visitors can be safe, and everyone can relax.

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