Inconsistency. Biting Leash. Grabbing Lead. Scratching for Attention

Miniature Schnauzer Pepper is now six months old. She lives in a family of five and gets a lot of input. This leads to inconsistency.

She has a lovely nature; a non-aggressive, friendly and confident little dog. Perfect really. The things she does that they would like to stop are all normal puppy things – but not perhaps by the time puppy is six months old.

They are first-time dog owners, enthusiastic to do their best.

Inconsistency is a problem.

inconsistency makes training hardThey all need to want the same things and decide just what they are. They then all need to stick to the protocols.

There is a little list of specifics they would like to change. Most are due to excitement and lack of direction in a way that she understands.

The list includes jumping up at them when they sit down and if ignored flying at them. If pushed away crossly, she may nip. It’s a battle to put her lead on and her teeth are used. She attacks and grabs the lead when they walk. One family member doesn’t want her upstairs.

She jumps at them when they are sitting down and if ignored, scratches and scrabbles with her feet. Her nails make this uncomfortable.

They are happy with the jumping on them if she is gentle. It’s okay while they sit at the kitchen table but not when they sit on the sofa. The inconsistency will be confusing. If they decide that her little soft paws gently on them is okay, I feel this has to go for wherever they are sitting.

They may decide no feet on them at all is what they want. But then, they like being jumped up on when they arrive home.

Picking their battles.

I suggested they pick their battles, come to an agreement as a family and then each one stick to the plan. (I myself would start by choosing to allow gentle paws wherever they are sitting or standing. Not rough scrabbling).

So far the emphasis has always been on stopping her doing things and it can in fact make her worse. Particularly when there is inconsistency. They may scold or physically prevent her from doing something in the moment, but that doesn’t teach her for another time. It can wind her up more, to the point where she nips.

The emphasis now will be in showing Pepper what they do want.

Teaching her the desired behaviour may not work in the moment so quickly. The result, however, if they all do the same thing and keep it up, should be permanent.

It complicates things if there is one rule for the kitchen and one for the sitting room. I would decide whether soft feet are allowed in both places when they are sitting, or whether no feet at all is what they want. Whether soft feet are allowed, but not nails.

When they have decided what they want they will stick to it.


Using their body language to remove attention and by reinforcing the behaviour they want. We used a clicker and the word Yes. We also reinforced just sitting looking at us and especially lying down peacefully.

While scrabbling gets maximum attention she will continue doing it. What’s in it for Pepper to lie down peacefully or to sit calmly beside us when jumping and scrabbling gets a lot of reaction?

There is even inconsistency in this. Sometimes she is fussed and cuddled. Sometimes she is pushed down and told No.

Lead biting is infuriating! They will, rather than using a water spray or impatience to stop her, now reinforce the behaviour they do want. When the lead is in her mouth they resist what is, to Pepper, a tug game. They freeze. As soon as she drops the lead, they drop food and they start moving again.


If they concentrate on getting Pepper to use her brain, her stress levels will come down and life will be easier. We saw how well that worked while I was there.

I gently asked her to do something only once – and waited. She did it. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all and just wait for the behaviour they want. Then they can say ‘Yes’ or click and reward with food.

At present she simply isn’t motivated to do what they ask. If they say ‘Come’, she understands but mostly decides to ignore it. At this stage they should use food liberally.

There are a number of things in our plan that, individually, would make little difference. Some things are pure management like blocking off the stairs. However, when they add the individual things together, avoiding inconsistency, they will see some good progress after the first few days I’m sure.

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

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)

Another Puppy!

fifteen-week-old Miniature Schnauzer Herbie, in his bed surrounded by toysHere is fifteen-week-old Miniature Schnauzer Herbie, in his bed surrounded by toys!

What a little character!

His lady is a first-time dog owner and over some things she is being very sensible and over other things she has picked up mis-information. For instance, she is running him with other dogs for an hour a day when at four months old Herbie’s limbs are not up to this, and she may scold him for toileting indoors – both of which I believe to be wrong. She wants to do her very best so that Herbie grows into a stable and happy companion.

Puppies can be exasperating – especially when they are grabbing clothes, biting feet or latching onto jewellery! People can feel helpless because repeated use of the word ‘no’ only makes matters worse, and they don’t know how to stop their little terror from doing these things.

Herbie was a ‘solo’ puppy – he had no brothers or sisters on whom to learn bite-inhibition, so ideally his early humans should have been filling this role. It’s all very well to be cross with a puppy (and those little teeth both hurt and can do quite a lot of damage to clothes), but this doesn’t teach the youngster what he should be doing, especially when his antics are getting him so much attention.

Already Herbie is on sentry duty, barking at passing children and dogs from the large upstairs window, and at people coming into the house.  He can be intimidated by people approaching him too directly and by being loomed over, and he may leap up and snap at a hand that is held out over him.

We have worked on basic ‘dog-parenting’ rules and strategies, on removing temptation for now so that it’s not such hard work (why set him up to fail) – not wearing flowing clothes, boots with dangly zips, hanging neck chains and so on. A gate to pop him behind while he calms down will work wonders when he is being challenging.

Jumping up on people, flying all over furniture, barking at people walking towards him and so on are perhaps cute in a fifteen week old puppy but not so good in an adult dog, so the basics in rules and boundaries, taught by using positive reinforcement for the desired behaviour, need to be set in place immediately.

I shall be helping this lady and her lovely puppy for months to come, through the various stages of his growth.

Another young Miniature Schnauzer reactive to people

Miniature Schnauzer Basil is scared of people coming to near himWhat a cutie! Basil is only seven months old and life isn’t always easy for him. Mainly, he’s scared of people coming too near to him or into the house and he barks like mad. First time dog owners, they have taken advice from a so-called trainer/behaviourist who advocated things like teaching him impulse control by having him on lead, putting his food down and as soon as he goes for it to jerk him back and shout Leave It. How cruel and pointless is that! Fortunately his caring owners, who only want to do the best for him, didn’t follow these instructions.

Other advice, this time from the breeder, has included using a pet-corrector when he barks both at home and on walks where he barks at people (this is punishing fear rather than getting to the root of the problem and dealing with that!). A trainer advocated forcibly controlling him on walks with a Gentle Leader not used ‘gently’. Poor Basil started to run away when the lead was brought out – and no wonder. Thankfully they also abandoned this a week ago and already Basil is happier before walks. They now need to go back to the beginning and teach him to walk comfortably on a loose lead, and then work on his apprehension of approaching people.

One very good thing in Basil’s life is he goes to a good doggy daycare once a week where he mixes with plenty of dogs and they are grouped according to size and temperament, so they don’t need to worry about his socialising with other dogs whilst they work on his lead walking.

There is another challenge for them all. They have an autistic ten-year-old whose actions must baffle Basil. She is noisy and ‘sudden’ – her actions can be random. Basil barks at her also. He needs helping out.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of a small dog. Large unpredictable humans approaching and looming, maybe shouting or moving suddenly, would scare any dog. We worked on his barking at myself and he calmed down surprisingly quickly. They could see by the way I moved slowly, didn’t go up to him, looked away and talked calmly whilst they also quietly followed certain procedures, that Basil quite soon was happy around me and taking treats. I am sure that, dealt with right and with the pressure taken off him, with the humans around him now helping him out through understanding not force, gadgets, commands or punishment, he will become more trusting and less fearful.

 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.