Welcoming the New Puppy

Black Maltese puppyThey had picked up thirteen week old Maltese, Oakley, the day before I came. He now lives with a couple and their two young sons aged eleven and eight.

About a month ago I had been to see the grandparents who live next door and the puppy lives with the young boy who was bitten by Asha and who has been doing so well in learning to understand her. He has even been training his friends.

My job is to help them to make sure all goes well from the start with little Oakley and the boys, and to help with the tricky situation of introducing the two Shitzus next door to the new puppy. One little dog, Gizzy, should be fine. Asha, however, is not at all good with other dogs and it’s important she doesn’t frighten the new puppy.

There is a gate between the two properties which both dogs and children freely go through. For now the gaps have been blocked although there is still a space underneath – a space large enough for little noses and for barking.

Although not house trained by the breeder, Oakley is taking to it naturally, and will even go to the door when he needs to toilet.  When I was there, however, this coincided with the two Shitzus being out in their garden. Asha barked and little Oakley barked and came dashing back into the safety of the kitchen. The younger boy sat on the swing while the puppy was outside and this scared him too.

It’s important that nothing frightens him outside else he won’t be so willing to go out to toilet. We don’t want him having to run the gauntlet past that gate which may have an aggressive-sounding Asha barking underneath it.

When little Oakley has settled I shall go back and work out a plan for integrating the new puppy with the other two dogs. We can start with the more relaxed and dog-friendly Gizzy first. Meanwhile, they should block the gap under the gate and both sides should be ready to start throwing tasty bits of food on the ground when dogs and puppy are aware of each other – far enough away from the gate and fence that they are not so aroused they won’t eat.

This way the dogs will begin to associate each other with something good – food.

We looked at the other basic ‘puppy parenting’ aspects such as gradually teaching Oakley that being all alone is fine (he had a good first night fortunately) in order to pre-empt separation problems, teaching the boys how to deal with puppy nipping, not to over-excite him and to give him space.

We looked at what is good food and what is not so good. I showed them how to lure him into sitting but suggested leaving any more training for now and allow him to settle in before putting any pressure on him. I stressed, as I always do, the importance of appropriate and non-scary acclimatisation to people, other dogs, appliances, traffic and everyday life outside the home.

One boy took a feather off him that he had found in the garden. This was a good opportunity to explain the importance of never just ‘taking’ something – but to exchange (and also not to remove things that don’t matter!). This then pre-empts any resource guarding behaviour.

I am really looking forward to my next visit when Oakley is properly settled. One boy is keen to learn to clicker train Oakley. We will then look at the best way to work on getting that gate between the gardens open again.

It took a while, but a couple of months later here are all three dogs happily together.casey

Things Get Too Much For New Puppy.

Dolly is an adorable, playful one-year-old Shi Tzu


Things get too much


Dolly is an adorable, playful one-year-old Shi Tzu with no problems at all – a really stable little dog.

A week ago nine-week-old Bella joined the family. She is a Malshi (never heard of that before, but a cross between a Shi Tzu and a Maltese). As you can see on the right – absolutely adorable.

The family has been used to Dolly who has always loved being handled. She lies on her back like a rag doll on their laps!

It was all too much for the new puppy

When Bella arrived they understandably treated her the same way. They have two little boys and many friends, and in the first few days she was cuddled by children, passed about and held high by a man. It was all too much for her.

In these first few days she was also scared of little Dolly, squealing when Dolly went near to her.

Then her behaviour started to change. Now, when someone approached and tried to lift her out of her bed, she growled. Initially they thought it was funny, that is until a child was holding her and she started growling, and when nobody took any notice Bella nipped the little girl.

Bella also was becoming very brave with Dolly and the play was growing rough. People were now getting concerned.

I watched the two little dogs playing and indeed it’s tricky. It was the sort of play you’d find OK between two dogs of the same age, but too rough for a puppy, although Bella herself now instigated a lot of it. It was simply too much for her.

When enough is enough

They will now step in sooner. It’s like you might say to your children, ‘that’s enough, it will all end in tears’, or you would say to your older child, ‘don’t get her too excited, be gentle’. We all felt it was good that the two dogs were getting on so well and sometimes they would be lying down together – but at what stage in play is enough, enough.

At what stage is it too much? The gentleman is inclined to panic where the lady tends to let them get on with it. I stand somewhere between the two.

They have a large wooden floored house. I noticed that with all the doors open and there was a lot of space – too much. Dolly would charge at little Bella from a distance, bowl her over and pin her down with her mouth. She did the same thing to her in the garden. Bella was learning to be rough.

Play would be much more equal in a smaller area. So, for a start I suggested shutting doors when they Malshi2play or putting both together in the puppy pen they have bought. They should not to have them playing freely out in the garden either for now.

When to step in

As I watched, everything would be okay for a couple minutes then, each time, there came a moment when the play tipped over into something more. It needs to be stopped before this point is reached.

They need to limit play to no more than five minutes at a time, possibly only a couple of minutes to start with. This is so puppy isn’t over-tired, over-stressed, over-excited or scared. If possible they will redirect play onto an item they can tug between them rather than play fighting.

Nine weeks old is such a baby and Bella needs to be taught to play nicely with dogs. Dolly has a couple of doggy friends of her own age and size whose play is very noisy and boisterous. She is doing the same with Bella but it’s too much for the tiny puppy. She is learning bad habits.

How to approach and handle Bella

I explained that not only was the approach of large humans very likely to be intimidating to Bella, but not all dogs like to be handled all the time in the way that Dolly does.

Growling is the puppy’s way of saying ‘I’m not comfortable. Please don’t do this’. To laugh or to ignore it is leading to trouble. If growling is ignored or discouraged, what is the puppy forced to do next?

They will now avoid picking her up altogether unless really necessary. They will give her the opportunity to come over to them for a cuddle while they sit on the floor – if she wishes. Guests will be asked to do the same. They will leave her in peace when she’s asleep.

When they lift her in and out of her pen, they will now give her a tiniest bit of chicken as they do so, to associate hands and lifting with something nice. I also showed them how to start teaching Bella to become comfortable with an approaching hand.

This is a crucial time in her life, and her experiences need to be nice ones. At present everything is simply too much

Charlie Doesn’t Feel Safe

From her owners’ perspective, adorable Bichon-Maltese mix Charlie is given everything a dog could possibly want for a happy life. They always thought the moBichon Charlie is yawning because he feels uneasyre excited she is the more joyful she feels. From Charlie’s perspective she is living a life punctuated by extreme stress and chronic anxiety.

Deservedly, Charlie is adored by the family – a lady, her daughter and her two granddaughters. By the end of my visit they began to see things in a different light. See the yawn? She is showing unease at being looked at while I took the photo.

When they greet Charlie she is ‘beyond excited’ and they fire her up with vigorous attention – so much so that she may pee. They believe just because she’s so excited that it’s good for her. The lady always thought that Charlie loved to go out in the car. Charlie’s excited and jumps in willingly, but then she is barking at people, dogs and traffic. She is left in the car when the lady shops because ‘she loves it’ even though she’s quite happy left at home. The entire time she is barking at anything she sees that moves. Beautiful Bichon Frise

Walks are horrendous. She pulls and barks at people, dogs and cars. It’s constant. They take her into the town where she is a ‘nightmare’, going for people’s legs; Mostly she is taken by car (barking all the way) to the park where she and her nervous owner are all the time looking about in near panic should a person or dog appear and if she’s off lead she will run back to the car or even try to find her way home.

Despite all this and like many other people – the lady feels that as a good and loving dog owner she must make Charlie go through this nightmare every day, and feels guilty if walks are missed. I would argue that Charlie’s mental and psychological health is more important than walks. Working on her confidence when out of the house will take a lot of time and patience.

I have recently watched a new DVD by famous trainer/behaviourist Suzanne Clothier called ‘Arousal, Anxiety and Fear’. She says she always mentally asks the dog, ‘How is this for you?’ She says ‘Make your dog feel safe’.

We put our dogs in situations where we think they are safe – but does the dog feel safe?

Loving their dogs as they do, why do so few people not consider, ‘How is this for you’ and help them out?

Scared on Walks, Teddy and the lady

Cute Poodle Maltese mixTeddy is the cutest little dog – a Poodle Maltese mix, three years of age. Teddy lives with his young lady owner and her parents and they are all totally in love with him. Understandably! Here he is begging for attention and he knows it’s impossible to resist! He loves having his photo taken.

Teddy is playful and loving, but has always been a somewhat sensitive dog. However, since about six months ago he has developed more extreme fearfulness. He has become much more barky at people coming to the door or dogs walking past the house, and will bark at anyone he doesn’t know well  whilst at the same time wanting to be friendly!

On walks it is worst.  He can scream with fear if an energetic dog is too close.  Because Teddy seems so small and fragile, the young lady’s mother in particular is very worried that Teddy might be hurt by another dog. He seems not to give off the right signals. He invites play and a chase, and then gets very scared when the dog takes him up, and then he may run away screaming. He has never been hurt by another dog, but even so the lady is now a nervous wreck on walks, worrying about whether Freddie might get hurt. She is undoubtedly passing her fear of the bigger dogs to Freddie. The lady’s father is also fearful, and picks him up, which makes things worse because the other dog then has to jump up to get to him.

The trouble with this sort of panic is that knowing it’s unreasonable doesn’t help. It eats into you.

What Teddie needs most is to be with people who are completely confident because then he will feel protected. At the moment I know that he feels exposed. The daughter is actually a lot more confident on walks, but in other ways she has given Teddy the responsibility of looking after her. She has been at home all day for the past six months. Teddy is mostly with her round the clock, sleeping in her room and following her like a limpet. He sits and watches the front door when she goes out. If another dog comes near her, he warns it off.

We need to work on calm walks for Teddy – things are hectic before they even leave the house. This should be taken gradually, a few steps at a time, with strategies so the people can feel calm and in control should they meet another dog. The mother needs to take it a few steps at a time just as much as Teddy – more so probably! She needs to work on confident body language and when she’s walking him stay near home where she can always turn back straight away if she starts to panic. Teddy can, without doubt, sense or smell her fear. The daughter needs to show some leadership/parenting and allow Teddy independence, so that he is not so needy and vulnerable – sort of wean him off her a bit.

It can be hard to ‘release’ a dog and allow it to be independent when you love him so much – especially a companion lap dog.  But – he is still a dog!

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