Poppy Doesn’t Like Being Touched

Border Collie with German Shepherd EarsPoppy is a Border Collie with German Shepherd ears. Look at them – and at that face!

Just as not all of us like too much fussing, pulling about and excitement, Poppy is a sensitive and somewhat fearful dog who isn’t keen on being touched unless she so chooses (to many of my friends a weekend of being pampered and massaged at Champneys would be heaven but to me it would be hell. I, unlike Poppy, have free will and can refuse).

There have been several biting incidents, on family members, and all have involved her being touched in some way when she doesn’t want to be touched – having touching forced upon her. All bites have also involved her already being in a highly aroused and stressed state.

She belongs to a couple with the man’s mum, a warm, effervescent and tactile lady who plays a big part in Poppy’s life, living just down the road. Unhappily, she is the receiver of the worst bites and understandably it upsets her greatly. Her manner is simply ‘too much’ for Poppy who probably feels overwhelmed.

Each incident has taken place when Poppy was already stirred up by something. She has undoubtedly given plenty of warnings over her three years which have been unheeded or punished. Sadly they have been watching the popular TV trainer who advocates dominance and pinning down and they are suffering the fallout.

The final and worst incident is an absolutely perfect example of how one thing leads to another as fuel is added to the fire, until some sort of explosion is inevitable.

Every day at lunch time the mother comes to the couple’s house to walk Poppy. Poppy may initially stay up the stairs growling at her. The lady does everything she can to get her to coax her down – and then the drama starts.

She takes Poppy out for a walk while the couple are at work. It is always the same ritual and route. The dog bolts out of the gate to the car. She is so wild in the car that in order to stop her redirecting her stress onto chewing the upholstery the lady muzzles her. At the field, she removes the muzzle and immediately throws Poppy a stick, otherwise she will attack the car tyres.

On this particular occasion she had her two grandchildren with her (8 and 10 – she never growls at them) who will, being children, have been playful and talkative – just as the lady is herself! They reached the river to find some excitable kids in a boat on the usually quiet river. Then a bird-scare gun went off. Poppy dropped to the ground. The lady bent over her to comfort her and she grumbled, but that was all. Then there was a second bang, the lady cuddled Poppy who immediately bit her on the hand which is now black and bruised. The dog then lay there and shook.

The lady, though scared by now, pinned Poppy to the ground – because she, like so many others taken in by the showmanship of this TV man, believed it was the right and only thing to do in the circumstances.

When she let go of her, Poppy bit her other arm.

A totally different approach is needed.

So today I was on the end of the phone with the lady and we did lunchtime differently. The emphasis was on quiet and calm with no pressure whatsoever being put on Poppy. She came in the front door and ignored Poppy grumbling up the stairs. No jolly, excited hellos or trying to entice her down – just ‘Hi, Poppy’ and walking on into the kitchen.

We had played a ‘Come when Called’ game yesterday and the lady did this from the kitchen with exactly the same words and tone of voice as we had used. Poppy came willingly for her – a first. She was learning that she was rewarded with a tiny bit of food instead of noisy enthusiasm and touching (which to her, because it seems to intimidate her, amounts to punishment not reward). Already she was choosing to come to the lady and be with her rather than lurking, grumbling upstairs.

As Poppy gets two other walks during the day, we have decided it’s best for the lady not to walk her for now, so we have thought up some calm home activities for lunchtimes with some mental stimulation but no excess excitement.

What if Poppy were a deer not a dog?. The lady would move slowly, speak quietly and not try to touch it because if she did the deer would run off.

She is feeling happy because already their relationship, based on better understanding, is improving.

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 Poppy. 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 potential 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).

Another Dog Scared of People

Today I met yet another dog who wasn’t happy to see me. This time, though, it was more straightforward. It was fear alone Black Labrador with a little Border Collie in the mix– there is nothing territorial or protective about Alfie’s behaviour.

Alfie is an eighteen-month-old mix of mostly Labrador with a little Border Collie in there somewhere. It’s hard to understand where the fear comes from. He was born into a family home and had plenty of human contact from the start. Perhaps it’s simply in his nature to be a bit timid. He is playful and loving and absolutely fine with people he has known since he was a puppy.

Isn’t he beautiful!

Alfie’s young owner, still at school, has done brilliantly with Alfie. She started by taking him to puppy classes and she has kept up the work conscientiously since. She is his chief walker and apart from his wariness of some people he meets when out, walks are good. He’s great with other dogs.

People are the problem. When someone new comes to the house (like myself) Alfie barks at them whilst backing off with his hackles up. I had arranged it so that I was settled and sitting down before he was brought in so he only gave a couple of barks at me. Without looking at him I was rolling small bits in his direction of the chicken that they had prepared for me in advance. Should he bark or should he eat the chicken? He is mostly greedy Labrador after all! It was not long before he was eating from my hand. I could even stand up and walk around without much reaction.

When I went to the loo I took the tub of cheese with me so that when I re-entered the room I could help him out. It’s hard to be fearful and chase bits of rolling cheese at the same time! When he then started to woof I pointed to pieces of cheese he had missed.

I am sure with more practice and plenty of tasty little morsels that Alfie’s being scared of people coming into his house will improve.

Outside things need to change a bit. Though he has never bitten anyone he is muzzled just in case. It may not look handsome but I was pleased to find they had a basket muzzle – he can still drink and pant. I suggested cutting some of the front out so he could eat too. He wouldn’t be able to bite anyone unless they were silly enough to put their hand in (he never has bitten anyone after all), but it means he can forage for food scattered on the ground when someone walks past or when they may want to stop to talk.

They find the muzzle is more a deterrent to keep people away. A Yellow Dog Champaign fluorescent vest reading ‘I Need Space’ could also help to repel those ‘dog lovers’ who bear down on dogs (‘Oh I love dogs, all dogs love me’).Labrador Border Collie mix with head on girl's shoulder.

There was one unfortunate incident the other day which prompted them to call me.Two little girls were playing in the road near Alfie’s house. One saw Alfie, who had just come out to the car, and started running towards him screaming ‘Alfie, Alfie’. He barked at her ferociously, hackles up, and frightened the child. Unfortunately his humans did a very ‘human’ thing. They were very cross with Alfie. If children were bad news to him before, they will be worse bad news now.

The family now understands that it’s not actually the barking at people who needs to be addressed – it’s the emotion that causes the barking which is fear. Punishing or scolding fear can’t help at all. Reducing the fear with positive associations is the way to go!

Reduce the fear and the fear-induced behaviour will reduce also.

About seven weeks later: ‘Overall we are seeing much calmer behaviour. He is much less aggressive/fearful in response to strangers’.


NB. The exact protocols to best and most safely use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Alfie, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the strategies I used. One size does not fit all. With this kind of issues, I suggest you find help sooner rather than later from an experienced professional. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help (see my Get Help page).

Bad Start with New Rescue Dog

Malamute Alaska injured new rescue Shar-pei's faceShar-pei Yoko had been in her new home for one day when she received a bad injury to her face from Malamute Alaska, requiring many stitches. But it wasn’t a fight as such.

What a sad situation. It had started so well. Both dogs had been walked together several times before bringing Yoko home and they had got on well.

What the lady hadn’t been told was that not only did Yoko have a bad ear infection, but in addition to a skin problem she was also in season. So, here was a very stressed dog trying to adapt to home life after nine months in rescue with physical problems as well.

Alaska, the most polite and confident dog with people who you can imagine, was only castrated recently. Yoko presented herself to him and he started to do what male dogs do. Unfortunately he has a bad hip problem and he will have been in pain also. Things were stacked up against them.

Anyway, the outcome was a sudden angry response from Yoko as she tried to escape, followed by the same from Alaska and at the same time he must have grabbed her face. There is a big discrepancy in the two dogs’ size and possibly because of her baggy skin, what may otherwise have been a puncture wound was a tear, probably caused when they were pulled apart. She has a good number of stitches.

The lady has a £400 vet bill and got off to a very bad start with her new rescue dog.

The final really sad thing about this is that the lady, a very conscientious and caring person who chose the two dogs specifically for their seemingly calm temperament in the kennels and not their breed, worries that she may never be able to trust them together again. She is now so anxious that she keeps the dogs apart unless Alaska is muzzled.

So this is the situation I arrived to. Should she or should she not keep Yoko?Alaska  is accepting of the muzz.e

Alaska himself had been in rescue for over a year before she adopted him last year. He has a few problems which we will work on, including marking in certain parts of the house and being a bit of a bully with off-lead dogs.

There are some very positive things also.

Because she has two children, the young lady has always played very safe. She gradually taught Alaska to welcome wearing a muzzle just in case it was ever needed  – it’s a bit too big and he looked so comical I had to take the photo.

She is a gentle person and the household is calm. Alaska is a quietly confident dog. When I arrived he was lying in the hall and I simply walked past him.

Both dogs showed no animosity to one another and although they are now let outside separately, they walk past each other with no reaction.

New rescue Sharpei,unknown when they fetched, is pregnant


At the moment Yoko is very uptight.  Understandably.  When she joined us and a muzzled Alaska in the sitting room, she l ay with her back to us for much of the time.  I then suggested we put Alaska on lead and removed the muzzle. When Yoko was walking about, the only sign of any trouble between the two was when Alaska sniffed her bum and she growled softly.

When the three guinea pigs that are kept in a large cage in the kitchen got active, Yoko became extremely agitated. She began to pace, cry and stress. It takes her a long time to calm down again.

The eleven-year-old daughter did some great calming work with Yoko that I showed her, reinforcing her whenever she sat, lay down or settled.

Whether or not Yoko stays will depend upon how she turns out when she settles in and what behaviours come to the fore. She has so many new things to adjust to.

Whether or not she stays will depend upon how the two dogs get on once her season is over and her body healed.

Whether or not she stays will also depend upon whether the young lady, who lives alone with the two children, ever feels she can relax again and leave the two dogs together – her house is quite small.  She got another dog to be company for Alaska.

If Yoko can’t stay, she won’t be abandoned back to the rescue. The young lady, bless her, has already decided she will get their permission to find the dog she already loves a good home – but not until she is fully healed and is in much better physical condition.

A week later it became apparent that Yoko was already pregnant. She had two puppies and the story goes on. The lady has managed the situation with Yoko and Alaska beautifully and they get on fine. However, she couldn’t find homes with people she felt she could trust for the two puppies so she still has them. Life is hard but she is doing her very best in difficult circumstances.

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

Muzzle Saved Me From Multiple Bites.

JRRockyIn my years of working with dogs I can remember few dogs quite as aggressively reactive as Rocky .

Usually they would have left the 4-year-old Jack Russell upstairs in a bedroom but I wanted to see him. If they do have him in company, he is always muzzled – thankfully.

As soon as he was let into the room he charged at me and attacked me! Had he not been muzzled I would have had multiple bites. I always play safe, but normally I would advise people to bring the  dog in on lead rather than muzzling him, but they can’t do this with Rocky. If he can’t get at his target he then redirects onto the person holding the lead and attacks them instead.

It’s not only people that he doesn’t know coming into the house that causes this reaction. He goes frantic if one family member so much as stands up to leave the room – and will attack them if they try to go out of the house, again redirecting if someone tries to restrain him and attacks them instead. Triggers such as someone putting shoes on or the lady walking towards her handbag distress him to such an extent that it is pitiful to see. He is beside himself.

The young lady sat on the chair next to mine and Rocky sat in protective pose between us (he now had his lead on as well). He ate a treat. I caught his eye and he flew at me again. This was not fear. This seemed more like rage.

Causes for aggression may be fear, stress, guarding/territorial behaviour or anger. I would say that with Rocky it’s all of these. He’s undoubedly protective. He barks constantly when out at any person or dog he sees. He is held on a tight lead on walks so gets no release of any sort for his frustrations. He can’t be trusted off lead even in the garden in case he escapes – he’s expert at breaching the fence. He barks at any sound out the front of the house and goes mental when post comes through the door.

All four family members have been bitten repeatedly and clothes torn.

He has been gradually getting worse since they took him on from friends a year ago. He had been passed around from one family member to another and they have proof that he was badly treated. He has been punished and hit for showing aggression which will without doubt have escalated things.JRRocky1

This poor little dog is only relaxed when the whole family is together later in the evening with no risk of anyone going out.  Much of the time he is living a nightmare. The family acknowledges that there are things they have been doing that haven’t helped and really want to help him. From a behaviour point of view they now have a plan of action for desinsitising and counter-conditioning. He will be very gradually desensitised to people going out, a tiny step at a time.

Rocky is in such a stressed place and is so conditioned to react aggressively in so many circumstances, that in order for the family to make any progress with the behaviour work he may need some back-up medication of some sort in order to allow them to work with his problems. I have advised a vet visit to ensure there are no medical issues as some disorders can cause aggression. His case is so extreme that natural things like Zylkene, DAP and so on I don’t feel would touch him.

Without some drastic steps being taken, Rocky’s days may be numbered.

Living with the Weimerana is a Battle

DiefenAs I walked in, 6-year-old Weimerana Dudley was jumping up at the child gate near the front door, barking somewhat scarily. Following the young lady into the living room, he leapt up at my face. I just kept turning away until he got the message and sat down and then I briefly tickled his chest just to show him I appreciated a polite and controlled greeting. I quickly discovered that positive feedback for desired behaviour was lacking. When he is quiet and good they quite understandably and literally ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ so as not to start him off again.

Dudley has been staying with his young lady owner’s parents for several weeks and he has turned their lives upside down. They are doing very best to meet the challenge. His owner is trying to sell her house and because of his behaviour can’t have Dudley there when she is showing people around. In fact I was the first guest the parents had dared have to their house in the weeks they had had him there.

There were such a catalogue of things that need dealing with that it was hard to know where to start without overwhelming them. They all fed into Dudley’s almost obsessive need to control them. With their attention not on him, he whined constantly knowing they all have a breaking point and will give in – I watched him whine at the lady until gave up her place on the sofa to him.

Dudley whines for them in the middle of the night if he hears any movement, he whines if they are talking or on the phone, when he shares the lady’s bed he will bark at her if she moves her legs, he guards the door to stop people leaving. In addition to his own meals, he whines while they are eating so they give him some of their own food.

He’s not as brave as you’d think, though. He backs away and shakes when approached with his collar or lead, and is likely to snap if they’re not careful. They use a Gentle Leader head halter to control his pulling – you can see the mark on his muzzle in my photo (I find it hard to see how this is ‘gentle’ but he is extremely strong and heavy; I hope he will soon be walking nicely without it).

Worst of all, Dudley has bitten several times, drawing blood. He bit the father a couple of times while guarding something he considered a resource, he has suddenly bitten ‘out of the blue’ when stroked, he has bitten the mother on a walk when she bent to untangle the lead from his legs. He may lean his heavy body on them, growling and grabbing an arm or sleeve if he thinks they may be going out somewhere, and may attack the door handle.  ‘Commanding’ him invites defiance. Using rewards can be difficult because he mugs the hand with the food in it.

His behaviour took a dramatic turn for the worse after he had been left with a dog sitter for a week a couple of years ago. One can fairly safely guess that this person used ‘dominant’, punishment-based methods on him in order to force him to comply. It seems that poor Dudley is totally confused and it is all about STOPPING him from doing things. It’s a battle. I started by suggesting they control his food and control his access to certain parts of the house.

I showed them positive feedback for desired behaviour instead. I got them to completely ignore all the whining because he would have to take a break eventually, and we then immediately and in silence dropped tiny treats on the floor in front of him. We did the same whenever he sat down quietly, whenever he lay down – in fact, whenever he did something good. I called him quietly, rewarded him, asked him to lie down which he did, and I worked him. I used gentle ‘requests’, not ‘commands’, and simply waited until he did what I had asked. Then I demonstrated how to get him to take a treat from my hand politely.

Dudley was focussed; a different dog. He needs more fulfilment in life so that he no longer needs to create his own.

This beautiful boy is going to be a big challenge and they will need to be determined, patient and consistent. They have shown already how committed they are. I shall keep closely in touch with them until they feel they have turned the corner. Understanding the things he SHOULD do will take a huge weight from him and he should become a lot more relaxed and cooperative.


Doberman Barking in the Garden. Pulls on lead

Barking in the gardenWhat a beautiful dog! Doberman Roxy is two years old and really only gives her owners two problems. It would be far easier to list her good points. She is polite and friendly, she’s good with other dogs and she is clever. She has never shown aggression of any sort. She understands and obeys quite a number of words.

But Roxy barks too much outside and she pulls on lead.

Roxy has been unintentionally led to believe that she controls nearly everything in her life – when and where she eats, what she will eat, when she’s played with, where she sleeps and who with, when she goes outside, when she is petted, when she comes back from playing with other dogs…………and the garden.

Barking in the garden

They hadn’t seen how they have been encouraging the barking in the garden. A Doberman, after all, is a guarding breed and to ask for no barking at all would be like asking a human not to talk.

Roxy looks out in the garden through the conservatory windows, on high alert.  Her tail is up. She is looking for cats or birds perhaps – or even a masked gunman? She agitates to go out until door is opened for her.

If they are sitting watching TV, she has learnt that if she simply keeps staring at the gentleman he will always give in and let her out. She is in a highly aroused state even before he opens the door. She rushes out, hackles up, and charges around the garden, barking.

If Roxy could speak she would be saying to the man, ‘Let me out right now so that I can check the boundaries, chase off the enemy and let the world know whose territory this is’ –  and he does it! I’m sure he won’t mind my quoting him (and he’s a big, strong young man): “I’m so weak-minded Roxy can control me telepathically!”

At night time they worry about the neighbours so need to stop her barking in the garden and have resorted to muzzling her to muffle the noise.

Making the decisions

How much better to take on the parenting and decision-making role themselves!

The young man will need to ignore the staring and let her out when he chooses and when she is calm. He won’t open the door until she has worked it out that it stays shut until she hangs back calmly and he may then step out with her. If she barks outside they will thank her and call her straight back in – rewarding her.

At night time she will need to go out on a long lead so she has no choice but to do as she is asked straight away. No more night-time barking in the garden.

Other little things they do throughout daily life will help too, gaining a bit more control of some of the important things like food and play. Roxy, who is a slightly nervous dog, when she accepts the new way of things should become more confident.

Suffered Abuse from Young Men as a Puppy. Fallout

Suffered abuse as a puppyTwo year old Mastiff X Bobby is a delightful, gentle dog who understandably is wary of men – most especially young men wearing hoods.

Abuse at the hands of male youths

He had an tragic start in life, suffering cruel abuse. He belonged to a group of youths who tried to force the gentle dog to be aggressive.

The lady has had him for one year now. At home he is calm, and he’s quite relaxed with a lot of physical attention and fussing from the teenage daughter. He fine with lady visitors. He is very uneasy around men, however particularly any man walking directly towards him or putting his hand out to him. Each time the son comes home from uni, it still takes Bobby a couple of days to relax with him.

The lady has worked very hard with Bobby over the past year and he has already come a long way. To start with he was so scared that he would frequently urinate when any sort of pressure was put on him. Now it seems that only high voices cause him to pee and occasionally interaction with a man. One has to wonder what sort of teasing and goading he must have endured.

The fallout from the abuse as a very young dog still has a hold on him.

Increasing distance from men

Unfortunately over the past few weeks there have been several incidents where he has ‘air-snapped’ warnings at men.

In one case his teeth met the man’s knuckles – if he had intended to bite there would have been more damage. Another man approaching and carrying a can of beer resulted in Bobby crouching and running at him, catching his leg before running off very scared.

The behaviour has started to include male neighbours and a man in their house.

It is a sort of vicious circle. Bobby feels threatened and is doing what comes naturally to a dog in the circumstances in order to protect himself – giving a warning by way of air-snap. The understandably emotional reactions of the men and his lady owner are increasingly making his apprehension of men worse.

Bobby needs help

Bobby needs to know that his lady owner is there to look out for him and protect him – in ways that he understands. He needs to be able to trust her.

Acknowledging his fear of males, she will now be sensitive when approaching a man directly. She will make sure the man understands the situation and ask him not to come too close, to avoid eye contact and to keep his hands away. She will explain the past abuse.

Whenever there is any doubt Bobby will for now wear a muzzle so that there is absolutely no risk whilst he learns to feel protected. The lady will do everything to help him overcome his fear of all men. She will make sure he comes immediately to her side when called, no matter what.

She loves him dearly and knows that if he bites someone for real, poor Bobby, despite the abuse, will pay the ultimate price

Subdued at Home, a Tiger on Walks

Border Terrier Willow is a little subdued at homeLittle Willow is four years old, and has been in her new home for seven months. She is exceptionally small for a Border Terrier. Just imagine seeing this tiny dog out on a walk, pulling on a short lead, being constantly corrected, and wearing a muzzle along with an electric collar. This isn’t because her owners don’t love her – it’s because they are doing the best they know how and are at their wit’s end over her aggression towards other dogs.

At home Willow is angelic – but a bit too quiet in my mind. She seems subdued and with little enthusiasm. It’s like she’s being careful. She constantly lifts her paws and licks her lips.

It is unusual that I feel owners of small dogs in particular are overdoing ‘leadership’, but I feel that in doing their very best with Willow they are using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. They are avid followers of a certain TV dog gentleman. People think that because he’s on TV and charismatic, what he says must be right. It’s all about dominance and who is ‘boss’, not about reward and encouragement. They have been told to rebuff all friendly approaches by her. Whilst it’s not good to always obey a dog’s every wish for attention, there is a happy balance. These old-fashioned notions were reinforced at dog training classes they attended where Willow would bark at other dogs, obviously extremely stressed, and when spraying water at her didn’t work they were told to pin her down. Why didn’t a so-called ‘dog-training professional’ try to understand why Willow was behaving in this manner instead of using force? Fortunately the owners have been uneasy with this and, seeing Willow getting worse rather than better, realise that their tactics are simply not working.

The problem is that when our dog’s behaviour really annoys or bothers us, our own behaviour is suspect. We do whatever works most quickly and gives the best immediate result. The more exasperating the dog’s behaviour, the more concerned we become. Hence shock collars, citronella collars, pinning down etc. Unfortunately these things don’t work well in the long run. The best long-term results come from strategies that work slowly, requiring patience and encouragement. The ‘fallout’ from bullying methods is well documented. Whenever the dog becomes acclimatised to a certain level it has to be increased in order to keep working. The dog probably doesn’t really understand where the punishment comes from or why. Where does it lead? Some dogs end up by shutting down completely. Others may even turn on the source of their suffering.

Fortunately Willow’s owners had already begun to ‘see the light’ which is why they called me.

Email a week or so later: “Good to see Willow appearing more relaxed and definitely more playful within a week of starting this plan”. Six weeks in: I visited little Border Terrier Willow again today. The best news is she is that with encouragement and rewards she is a lot more trusting and cheerful at home. Progressing into the outside world is slow, but the young couple are working very hard and she now walks beautifully on a loose lead in the garden and around the garage area. Beyond there she still has a meltdown at any noise or person, let alone a dog. We have a plan to desensitise her a bit faster, and that is to have sessions that aren’t walks at all – for them to pick her up and carry her around their quiet housing estate (carrying a dog is something I have never advised before). Willow can then get a bit more used to sounds like doors closing and distant dogs barking, and to cars and people – but held safely in their arms and maybe even inside their jacket also. She still just feels far too vulnerable on the end of a lead. It’s Catch 22, if she isn’t exposed to things she never will get used to them, but when she is exposed to them it sets he back because she panics.

Border Collie Cross Attacked a Puppy

Border Collie Blaze on the sofa with the two other dogsBlaze is a four-year-old Collie – maybe Collie X. He lives with two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in a lovely family with two little girls and three cats. He is wonderful with both the little girls and the cats – and the other two dogs.

He has attacked other dogs several times when out on walks, but never causing damage. His owners are very careful, but a week ago he attacked a puppy. They had been walking with a friend and several other dogs and had also met two Labradors. It was near the end of the walk. Because of Blaze’s previous  history, whenever they saw a new dog, the lady would catch Blaze and put a muzzle on him. On this occasion she wasn’t quick enough.

They are very responsible dog owners and the lady is devastated for the injured puppy which is why they called me in.

Blaze would never show any aggression to a human. He is biddable and loving if somewhat demanding and lacking in manners. As we chatted, they began to realise that the dogs, Blaze in particular, get away with behaviours that would never be tolerated from their children – standing on the sofa, walking over them, pawing and nudging for constant attention.

Before they even set out on a walk there is huge excitement. The dogs charge out ahead and pull the lady down the road. Due to a certain lack of respect in other aspects of life, it’s unlikely that Blaze, when off lead, will feel there is any reason why he should come back straight away when called if there is something else he needs to do – like warn off an approaching dog.

At home Blaze is restless. He paces. He is demanding. He looks permanently anxious. He is most settled when nobody is about.

If the exact circumstances preceding these attacks could be remembered, I would bet that he had a build up of excitement and stimulation. He is permanently stressed to a certain extent, and it won’t take too much more to drive him over the edge. When he sees a dog his humans panic, they catch him, put a muzzle on and so on – which must be transferring even more stress onto Blaze.

He must never again have the opportunity to attack dogs while off lead. Full stop.

Hard work needs to be done on his recall and his relationship with his owners so that he feels that they are sufficiently important to come back to immediately when they call him. With work he should be able to leave the house calmly, to walk happily and comfortably down the road on a loose lead. They will be careful not to overdue the stimulation that can come from long bouts of play. Sometimes too much exercise can worse than not enough, and it is interesting that the final bad attack happened at the end of a long walk with lots of action, when one would have expected him to be tired and satisfied.

In a calm state of mind Blaze is unlikely to suddenly ‘go’. With a better balanced relationship with his owners, he will obey pronto when the call ‘come’.

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

Getting to Know a New Dog

Golden Labrador Sunny is settling well into his new homeWhat a beautiful boy! Sonny is a three-year-old Golden Labrador who has been in his new home for just three weeks.

When I arrived I was expecting a challenge. Sonny was quite persistent with his jumping up, and I spotted a muzzle on top of his crate by the door.

It soon became very apparent that this was just a friendly and very mellow natured Labrador who had, unwittingly, been taught to jump up. People think that saying Down, looking the dog in the eye and giving him a push will do the trick. But how many dogs are still jumping up after years of this? How would a stable dog tell a puppy that jumping on them wasn’t welcomed? Dogs don’t speak for starters! A dog would tip him off, turn away, look away, and continue to do so until he got the message. I see this happening with my own puppy and dogs. She gets the message!

Looking at Sonny, speaking to him and touching him gives him the very attention he is demanding. He may get down that time, but he has learnt it works for next time.

The muzzle is because the Rescue were worried Sonny may not be good with other dogs and they were playing very safe while they worked with him but there is little evidence of this so far. In his past life he had not been walked nor socialised with other dogs.  He may bark at dogs but it seems this is a mix of not knowing quite what to do, an element of fear, and general young dog excitement. The only actual incident they have had in the three weeks was with an off lead dog who approached Sonny. He may have been sending the wrong signals and Sonny over-reacted. They have friends and neighbours with dogs that Sonny has got on well with from the start.

They will hide the muzzle! Each time they look at it they will be thinking of Sonny attacking dogs. This isn’t an expectation they would want fulfilled, and it’s not a good image to have imprinted in their minds every time they go out.

Apart from the jumping up which also happens when they meet people out on walks, we are dealing with the excessive lead pulling, and have strategies for meeting other dogs.

I feel they are very lucky indeed to have such a wonderful dog from rescue, and Sonny is very lucky indeed having such a wonderful new home.

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