Goes Deaf When Called. Takes No Notice.

The young couple adopted mix breed Buddy at five months old. He is now nearly two. They were told he had Beagle in him, though it’s hard to tell.

There really is nothing wrong with the young dog that a bit of motivation and consistency won’t solve – along with some systematic training exercises to get him to pay attention to them.

Buddy goes deaf when they call him.

Continue reading…

Ignores Them. Won’t Come When Called. Unmotivated.

Not only does 9-month-old German Shepherd Max look beautiful, he has a wonderful personality. Like many teenagers he’s full of himself and this is a lot better than being the opposite –fearful. He’s confident and friendly.

Max ignores them!

Max also is a law unto himself! Continue reading…

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.

How?

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.

Motivation

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

Fighting Brother and Sister. Older Dogs

It’s a sad situation.

Fighting with his sister

Hugo

The Irish Terrier brother and sister, now ten years old, have had the occasional spat in the past.

Lottie was always the most confident one. Hugo is more fearful and has been very reliant upon Lottie. He loves his walks, but won’t go without her. It sounds like Lottie has controlled Hugo for years, but now the roles have reversed.

Lottie’s pre-existing heart problem has developed into full-blown heart disease. The fighting has escalated. Probably the two things are connected.

Hugo attacks her.

Their humans desperately need to be able to relax, knowing that there will be no fighting while their backs are turned.

Questions unearthed a pattern that fits most of the incidents.

It seems that it’s access to an area that Hugo controls from Lottie. He places himself where he can see the most important places at the same time – the kitchen doorway access to the sitting room, the pantry door where the dog food is kept, his own eating area and where he can see the lady working in the kitchen. One of his humans is always nearby.

Lottie will be across the kitchen in her favourite place lying by the open back door.

I went to where Hugo chooses to lie and lowered myself so I could see what he sees. He and Lottie could be staring at each other unnoticed – through the table legs.

I wonder what subtle messages pass from Lottie to Hugo? It’s just possible that she’s not a totally innocent party. Possibly she is still pulling his strings and he gets all the flack.

Anyway, what usually happens is that Lottie gets up and starts to walk towards Hugo (and the lady and the sitting room door and the pantry and his food station).

Hugo flies at her.

Lottie retaliates but due to her weakness comes off the worst.

Fighting is becoming more frequent.

The human response isn’t achieving a halt to the fighting. It’s getting worse. They throw water at the dogs which usually gives them a chance to forcibly pull them apart. Like most people would, they then add shouting and scolding.

I suggest they resist their instinctive reaction to shout unless that’s needed to break the dogs up as it simply adds fuel to the fire. From the dogs’ perspective they are probably joining in with yet more anger and noise. The people should be as calm and quiet as they can be. Separate the dogs with as little fuss as possible and ignore them for a while. Afterwards behave like nothing has happened – most dogs do, after all.

Often siblings who have always lived together rely upon one another; and the owners rely upon their dogs having each other for company.

I feel that Hugo now needs to be more focussed on his humans (and not just for attention under his own terms). For this there is no better way than to constantly reinforce, pay, the dog with food for everything he’s asked to do. They need to be able to instantly get his attention if necessary.

Almost immediately I found an unresponsive Hugo running to me when he realised I had food for him. This then puts the dog on remote control. His focus will be on them – not on Lottie.

Due to the fighting, the couple have been reluctant to use food. However, no fights have actually happened around treats or food when not a valuable resource like a bone. They will be careful.

What to do?

If they sense or see stillness or eyeballing, or if they simply feel uneasy, they will call that dog – Hugo probably. They will reward him. If Lottie comes too, they can feed her also. They can tell them both that they are good dogs. Remain upbeat. This works a whole lot better than any ‘Uh-Uh’, warning or scolding.

Motivating Hugo to focus on themselves rather than on Lottie, by using food, will be the best antidote.

So the couple can feel secure that no fighting can happen, management must be in place. Hugo’s ‘guarding’ area should be blocked, perhaps with a dining chair. The dogs can be separated by the closed gate at times – but not always on the same side. We don’t want Hugo’s ‘space guarding’ to take over one of the rooms.

Hugo can be weaned into liking a muzzle.

Then everyone can relax, knowing that poor Lottie is safe. No more living on tenterhooks and human tension being transferred to the dogs.

Being relaxed and calm may even extend Lottie’s life.

 

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 Hugo and Lottie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. 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, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. As can advice advocating punishment, as seen here. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Come. Won’t Come When Called. Runs Off. No Recall

Layla really is the near-perfect little dog for her lady owner, particularly at home. She stable, confident and can be taken anywhere.

When off lead, Layla won’t come when called.

The one and only area where she is less than perfect is that, once she’s free, she may run off and she won’t come back.

Layla has been chased along beaches and chased down busy roads. She is not let off lead at all nowWon't come when called.

The three-year-old Bichon Frise is an independent little thing. She’s not demanding. She may do her own thing but that’s no problem – not most of the time anyway.

To come when called isn’t really about training. Layla knows what ‘Come’ means, I’m sure. She just doesn’t see a sufficiently good reason to do so.

This is about two things: motivation and building up a conditioned response – so that when she hears the word ‘Come’ she reacts more or less automatically.

Motivation.

Where motivation is concerned, the lady needs to make herself as compelling and relevant (to Layla) as possible. Mutual love isn’t quite enough. When out, the lady is competing with the environment of wonderful smells, other dogs, birds and so on.

What can she do?

She can work on getting and holding Layla’s attention at home to begin with. To make herself motivating she can get Layla to work for some of her food – Layla loves her food fortunately.

The lady could also use fun if she could find something they mutually enjoyed. Although it may not be appropriate in this case, here is a nice video showing how play can be used to make the person really desirable to be with and to come back to.

Over the past two years at least, Layla has learnt that ‘Come’ is optional. She comes back when she wants. She has also learnt that the word come will probably be repeated many times “Layla, Layla, Come, Come, Come…”.

This selective hearing now has to be replaced with a new, automatic, response to the word ‘Come’.

There is no quick fix for a dog that ignores being called. The only way to achieve good recall, particularly if one is unable to run about oneself, is through lots of repetition where the dog is only set up to succeed.

When someone says ‘Catch’ we put your hands out without thinking. When the lady says ‘Layla – Come’, Layla needs to run to her almost without thinking.

Frequent short sessions, stopping while it’s still fun.

‘Come’ meaning ‘come’ will be best absorbed by Layla if done in graded steps, over a period of time. It will be a good while before ‘off lead’ is reached.

So, I have created a plan where they start in the house with frequent sessions of walking around. Copying what I did, the lady walks away from her calling “Layla – Come!”. Layla catches up and is rewarded. The lady can then call her from room to room. She can then call her when she’s out of sight. Eventually they can graduate to having Layla on a 30-foot long line, outside where there are more distractions, tied to something like a tree.

Bit by bit you they will be building up an automatic response.

The lady will be motivating Layla: ‘I’ve been called, I will come right away. It will be worth it!”.

She can also reinforce ‘Come’ by calling Layla for anything she likes, like meals, putting her lead on for a walk or going to the car.

When Layla is running on the beach on her long line, the lady should only call “Layla – Come” when she is coming anyway. The competition from the environment makes it too likely that ‘Come’ will be ignored and devalued.

How long will it take? Who knows. It will depend upon how patient the lady is and how many short sessions she can manage – sufficiently short that Layla remains motivated and doesn’t become bored.

Two or more years of freelancing won’t be overturned in just a few weeks.

 

Stubborn or Simply Unmotivated?

They would like their two dogs to be more cooperative, to be less demanding for attention and for English Bulldog Winston, age 3, to stop toileting in the kitchen at night time.

Winston is stubborn

Stubborn English Bulldog

Winston

Or so they feel. For the purpose of my story I will concentrate on Winston as apart from being too excitable, their other dog Dylan, an adorable one year old Pug Jack Russell mix, tends to take his lead from Winston. We can probably make a significant change to Dylan’s excitability by changing away from Bakers Complete dog food. (It’s tasty of course, but who would feed this stuff if they knew what it contains)?

Winston’s taxing behaviours are symptoms of the same thing. I would call it mainly lack of motivation. He’s not being stubborn for the sake of it.

Acting ‘stubborn’ gets results. He is under-stimulated both mentally and physically.

He dislikes his harness being put on. Possibly he’s a little intimidated by how it’s used. Possibly he likes the effort his humans have to make in order to get it on him!

Once the harness is on, he may refuse to go to the door whereupon he is dragged, half-carried by the harness. He is put on a flexilead. Once outside, he may not walk. He will simply stop. Once again he is dragged/carried forward in the hope that he toilets before bedtime.

Why does he do this?

I immediately noticed that the dogs took little notice if they were spoken to or called.

When they call Winston or want him to come or to sit, they repeat it over and over and even then he may ignore them.

How can they motivate Winston to be cooperative?

Food!

I gave him a small bit of food so he knew I might be worth listening to, and then a started to call him over to me. Even when he was lying down he would get up and come to me after just one call. I asked him to sit, once, and waited (trying to stop the family repeating the cue because he wasn’t yet doing anything). He had heard me. Half a minute later Winston sat. I rewarded him.

It was mid evening and already dark. I suggested we rehearsed the bedtime outing to see how stubborn Winston really is.

Because he immediately walks away and lies down when he see the harness, we started there. For now they will still need to approach him, but soon, when he realises that having the harness put on is nice, he will come over when asked I’m sure.

We used grated cheese: the man took harness to him-cheese, put it over his back-cheese, did up one clip-cheese, did up the other clip-cheese.

Now comes the crafty bit! Winston will now expect the whole ritual of trying to get him out to start but we walked away and left him.

We need to abandon that flexilead. This will always make him feel restricted as it has a spring and it’s vital he feels that he has a choice, that he’s free. My lead is 8 feet long. We walked to the door calling him as we passed. He got up and followed us. No stubborn dog yet!

We popped the lead on and walked down the path to the village green opposite. As we walked Winston had praise and, at the man’s side, food.  We walked across the green in the dark. the lead went tight and the man stopped. He patted his leg and called Winston to him. Winston came. Reward.

It’s so important to engage with the dog.

The man asked ‘what do I do if I want to turn around?’. I took the lead, walked away from Winston to the end of the eight feet but keeping it loose still and then called him, sounding exciting. I fed him and praised him and made it fun to be with me. Simple!

We had a lovely short walk. If walks are like this every time, Winston won’t be stubborn for long!

What should the man do if Winston still goes on strike and refuses to move? Call his bluff. If one invitation to move is refused, turn around and go home. No walk for now. Try again later.

One reason the evening walk in particular is so important is Winston’s frequent toileting in the kitchen, both pee and poo. They leave a pad on the floor and he always aims for that which makes me feel he’s not marking and that he simply needs to go. There is no evidence of anxiety of any sort.

I know he is a Bulldog with a Bulldog’s body, but to my mind (and looking at Winston’s ‘waist’), I feel he is fed too much. They will cut down, bearing in mind the rewards he now will be eating. They will also try him on another food. The better the food, the less waste will pass through the dog.

Dylan lying at my feet

Dylan lying at my feet

He may refuse to walk, but he constantly demands attention in various infuriating ways, mostly when the lady has her attention on the baby! He is a bored dog. He’s also a clever dog. They do their best, having a dog walker twice a day but because of his being ‘stubborn’ he is usually left at home and Dylan is taken by himself.

The only exercise Winston gets apart from irregular walks that start by car and which he loves, is spasmodic high-energy football out in the garden with the son which isn’t the right sort of thing for a Bulldog at all.

He needs more brain work, more sniffing, more exploring – and motivation.

I’m sure he will soon be joining Dylan for the two daily walks with the dog walker. The family will do less over-arousing stuff and give him more breed appropriate activities and brain stimulation. They will be working hard on teaching him to come immediately when he’s called.

Life should be a lot better for everyone, particularly the lady who, trying to care for a young baby, has found herself spending time upstairs during the day in order to escape from two demanding dogs.

At the end of our three months together: “Both dogs are much better and we’ve come a long way in our ability to train and work with them. We’ve not had a single kitchen accident from Winston since seeing you, the walking is much better and so is the barking. Evenings are also quieter.”
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 Winston and Dylan. 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. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

People Walking Away, the Dog Attacks

People walking away from him causes Barney to lose it.

Barney’s lady owner had been so sure that due to his odd behaviour he had something either wrong with his brain or a chemical imbalance in his body, that he has undergone extensive tests including an MRI scan. All is clear.

People walking away from him cause Harvey to attack them

Harvey

His behaviour however is troubling. I suspect this is because he himself is troubled – an upsetting thought for his dedicated lady owner.

Six-year-old Hungarian Vizsla Barney is very well-trained as a gun dog, but training alone doesn’t make a well-adjusted and happy dog. In fact, I have been to dogs where the opposite is the case. Sometimes the owners just try too hard.

The lady is an exceptionally conscientious dog owner and has structured her life around Barney. They have been more or less inseparable for the past four years. He has always been panicked by his people walking away so she has avoided it as much as she can.

People walking away from Barney triggers an attack. One can safely assume this is in an effort to prevent them from leaving.

When they shut the boot of the car and walk away, even if only to go to the driver’s door, Barney goes wild with barking and panic. The whole car rocks.

Recently the lady has gone back to work full time and Barney is getting worse.

He does other odd things. Each evening he will have a lengthy bout of staring and fixating at the garden window, drooling. He will then do the same to his humans. They don’t let him out, they ignore it believing it to be the right thing to do. It’s almost like a contest where he must not win.

If a child were behaving in this troubled fashion, the parents would help him out. If they don’t want the dog to rush out barking at pigeons or trying to kill a hedgehog (he has come back in covered in blood), they can call him away and do something else with him. Currently he’s so fixated he may not even be aware of them calling, but fortunately he’s food driven and we found when I was there that it was easy to get his attention with food.

Having called him away, they can give him something else to do, incompatible with his obsessing. They will cover the lower part of the windows.

The ordeal of going out

At present when they need to go out they have a ritual. Amazingly, having watched the picking up of keys and all the other signals that they are about to go and when the front door is opened, Barney has been successfully taught to go to his bed in the sitting room. They then go back and give him a carrot (the one time when food is used to motivate him) and rush out of the room and out of the front door.

However, if he finishes the carrot before they are out of the door they have to try again.

For now the problem can be temporarily managed by the use of a gate in the sitting room doorway. They can also make the carrot-eating slower by stuffing it into a Kong.

For Barney’s mental health and general stress levels the panic and emotions that drive him to behave like this need to be worked on, slowly and gradually, desensitising and counter-conditioning until he accepts and ultimately even enjoys people walking away.

They believe he is fine once they have gone, but I’m not convinced and have asked them to video the first fifteen minutes or so. A dog walker calls daily and he’s the same with her when she goes.

‘Operation Calm’

Life must be a bit confusing for the highly-strung dog. He is ruled by commands whilst at the same time being worshipped. I would reverse both. I would work on motivating him by using food so he makes more of his own choices with fewer commands, and I would advise worshipping him less!

Humans relax. Stop watching and worrying over him.

He was beside me staring out of the window. He lay down, still staring. Then his head dropped onto his bed. I silently fed him. Each time he relaxed I did this. He now needs positive guidance into how to relax.

I’m sure the very caring lady will herself also feel a big sense of release and relief if she can let go a bit and stop worrying so much. Instead of stressing because Barney is stressing, they can work on Operation Calm, silently feeding when he relaxes and settles. They will give him activities that will help him to calm himself down including chewing and foraging. He has three walks a day – could this actually be too much?

I am sure that if they now use motivation and food and work hard at teaching him that people walking away from him results in him getting something nice – and that they always come back – they won’t need that gate in the doorway for ever. Here is a great little video about motivation.

One strong influence is the lady’s following of breed-specific Facebook groups which has coloured her life with Barney. These groups spread the idea that a Vizsla isn’t the same as other dogs, like it’s a different species. Individuals in these groups can give mis-information and outdated training advice still unfortunately prevalent in the gun dog world.

Primarily Barney is an animal. Secondarily he’s a dog. The fact he’s a Vizsla and a gun dog doesn’t affect the basic principals of behaviour, that positive reinforcement teaches a dog what we want in a way that is most successful both in terms of him understanding what is wanted and in his feeling of fulfillment.

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 Barney and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. 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, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Personal Space, the Dog and the Child

Consideration of Personal space is a one-way street for Dijon!

Cavapoo Dijon is a confident little dog in most respects. He knows what he wants – and usually gets it. The one respect in which he’s not so confident is when the lady is about but he can’t get to her. He stresses.

Caverpoo doesn't like the child invading his personal space Fourteen-month-old Dijon is increasingly treating the lady like some sort of resource belonging to himself when the 5-year-old daughter is near to her mother.

Dijon may fly at the child, snapping, if she goes to her for a cuddle.

Dijon has now bitten the little girl’s nose and this was when the lady wasn’t even in the room. She had left dog and child together on her bed for just a moment when the child screamed.

It seems the little girl ‘won’t be told’ where putting her face up close to Molly’s is concerned. She may also invade the dog’s space and he’s a little dog that likes control of his own personal space – though he has no regard whatsoever to the personal space of humans, whether family or people he’s not met before! He flies all over them.

I suggested that just as we are looking for ways to reinforce Dijon for the behaviours that we like, we need to get the child on board in the same way. Her parents say they just can’t get her to listen (much the same as people say about their dogs!).

Motivation is the key.

Dijon on his bedroom sofa

Dijon on his bedroom sofa

One suggestion I use to help young children to observe their dog’s personal space is to pretend that the dog lives in his own personal bubble. They can perhaps draw a picture of what it looks like. If they burst the bubble a terrible smell escapes – children can use their horrid imaginations!

The little girl must not burst Dijon’s bubble. Only Dijon can step out of his bubble and when he does so there is no smell!

She must keep her distance when Dijon is lying down or doing his own thing. They could make little picture stickers for the Dijon’s favourite sleeping places as reminders: ‘Dijon’s Bubble’. It’s much better to be able to remind the child ‘Remember Dijon’s Bubble’ than to have to keep nagging ‘leave Dijon alone’.

So, positive reinforcement for her also. Whenever she is seen observing Dijon’s bubble she should be praised or rewarded in some way and eventually it will become a habit.

It’s fine to touch theBerridgeBubble dog if he himself chooses to come out of his bubble and to the child, but even then the child should learn what sort of touching the dog likes (and doesn’t like).

There are videos for her the parents to watch with her like this and how to kiss a dog.

To ‘cure’ this problem at source needs Dijon to feel better about the child being near her mother, so two things should happen. His relationship with the lady needs to be a bit different so that she is no longer regarded by Dijon as a something belonging to him, and he needs to feel differently about the child herself.

 

The two humans involved, the lady and her little girl, can change things with Dijon

The lady needs to help release Dijon who currently follows her everywhere, all the time. He sleeps in their bedroom or on their bed and doesn’t always take kindly to the child running into the room and jumping on the bed to cuddle her parents.

They will gate the stairs so there is now somewhere that the lady can go without being followed. She should be able to come and go out of sight without it being an issue, starting slowly with very short breaks. Walking out on him can be associated with something nice.

Dijon can be invited upstairs only at bedtime.

When in the bedroom he will learn that he no longer gets on their bed at all.

I’m not against dogs being on beds if that’s what people like unless the dog reacts negatively to any other person (or dog) on the bed.

Keeping him off can be done kindly because there is a comfortable sofa in their bedroom that Dijon also sleeps on. For the child’s safety, management by way of physical precautions is vital. Dijon can be anchored to the sofa area by a lead so he simply can’t chase the child or leap on the bed.

Loving Dijon without bursting bubble

Loving Dijon without bursting bubble

The alternative is to leave him downstairs. They are reluctant to do this because of the panic he gets himself into.

The other thing that needs to happen, in addition to Dijon feeling a bit more independent of the lady’s comings and goings, is for Dijon to feel differently about the child herself.

The little girl is going to learn about counter-conditioning!

When she comes home after school, Dijon jumps all over them with no regard at all for their personal space! They want this to stop. Ignoring him isn’t enough and the little child finds this impossible anyway. She can’t be sufficiently calm and quiet either. Instead, she will be shown something that she can do. She will be given pieces of his dry food. When his feet are on the floor she will drop food. When he’s jumping up she can wait for his feet to be on the floor again. She might even earn a little reward herself.

When she wants a cuddle with her mum, the little girl can tell Dijon. ‘I want to cuddle Mummy’ and as she does so throw a handful of his dry food onto the rug. She can have a tub of ‘cuddle food’ to hand. This will not only help Dijon to associate the occasion with something nice, it will also send him away to the rug – away from leaping up at the her, air-snapping or nipping.

The stair gate is a must. Even when we are in the same room we can’t watch dog and child every second. Shutting a door on Dijon isn’t yet an option. There needs to be somewhere in the house where the little girl is 100% safe and need not be watched.

Like all my stories, this is nowhere near a complete report. I pick an aspect.

A week later I have visited again – with a photo of Dijon printed on a piece of paper. The little girl drew me a picture of ‘Dijon’s bulbble’ around his picture and of herself outside it. Mum will laminate copies of it and put by Dijon’s resting places as a reminder. All off her own bat, the little girl drew hearts, love, from herself to Dijon without breaking his bubble.

 

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 Dijon. I don’t go into detail. 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, particularly where aggression or fearfulness is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. 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)

No Motivation, No Training

Tricolour Cavalier KC on sofa

Jack

In an interview Jean Donaldson says, ‘no motivation, no training’.

The family I went to yesterday describe their seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Jack, as stubborn. I would call him unmotivated. That little face says it al!

Motivation really is just the drive that makes him want to do something. It can be inspired by gaining something rewarding, like fun, food or appreciation – or by avoiding something he doesn’t like.

So far as our relationship with our dogs is concerned, the choice is a no-brainer. Reward not fear.

When the lady wants him to go to his bed, she has to lay a trail of treats to bribe him because otherwise he takes no notice of her (the little monkey will go to bed for the four-year-old daughter!). He likes to pinch the children’s toys and then, when the lady tries to take them off him, he growls and may snap. I noticed that if she calls him he ignores her unless she tries very hard. However, when the man tells him to do something he does it straight away and he simply takes things out of Jack’s mouth with no trouble at all.

I suspect that Jack is just a little wary of disobeying the man but knows the lady is powerless to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Refusing is fun as it gains him so much attention.

If he takes a child’s toy, it leads to a somewhat scary game where he will ‘treasure’ the item and if he could speak he would be saying, ‘I dare you to come and take this’. What’s in it for Jack to give the item up straight away or, more importantly, not to take it in the first place?

Blenheim Cavalier King Charles

Charlie

So far as going to his bed or coming in from the garden is concerned, what’s in it for him, after all? Not complying gets the best results.

It is really so easy to get our dogs to cooperate if we motivate them with plenty of positive reinforcement and appreciation for doing what we want. It’s so important to show them what it is we do want. Different things motivate different dogs so we can experiment. Rewarding is a lot different to bribing. Calling him to his bed and rewarding him when he gets there is a lot different to throwing treats into his bed and luring him there.

Jack is a plump little dog and probably seldom really hungry, so I say he should be fed a lot less and earn some of his food. He can earn special stuff for special things like exchanging or dropping something he has nicked. If this is approached with a sense of humour and all confrontation is avoided, the problem should disappear. Jack never damages the item so they can safely ignore it. At the moment it’s a bit dangerous as the young children may try to take one of their toys off him and the parents are constantly on edge.

The family can do plenty of exchange games – always exchanging for something better (to him) than the item he’s got – the rule being nobody, ever, should force anything off him. He will then find the ‘pinching and treasuring’ game not worth playing anymore. They can teach him that if he picks something up, it’s a far better game to bring it to them instead of ‘possessing’ it.

For the lady’s attention to have value to Jack, attention shouldn’t be constantly available on tap – whenever he demands it. He needs to be taught to earn her attention whilst giving her his full attention when asked. For food to be of value there should be less of it and rewards a little more tasty.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Jack, 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).