Nervous Dog. New Puppy. Early Exposure.

What is it with so many Staffies? Is it a genetic tendency I wonder? Nervous dog Tom is yet another Staffie who is fearful of the outside world and reluctant to walk.

Tom drools when he is scared. He does a lot of drooling on walks.

A new Staffie puppy

The other day they brought home a new Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy. Buster is a nine week old heart-breaker with a coat of grey velvet.

New puppy with nervous dogThey first brought home something that smelt of the puppy to introduce his scent to Tom. Tom drooled.

When puppy arrived, the poor nervous dog was really scared of him. Tom drooled continuously.

Over the past three days he has improved but still likes to keep out of the enthusiastic puppy’s way.

One surprising development is that Tom himself sometimes now initiates play. Strangely he’s not a nervous dog with Buster when they play. He bows and barks to Buster to get him to chase him.

There is only so much he can take though, and then he’s back to his nervous, quiet self and retires.

Buster follows him into the corner and Tom then drools or tries to escape. It’s like he is expecting to be told off or punished when the puppy is near him (something which definitely isn’t happening).

The big outside world.

They have had the four-year-old Tom for five months now and it’s clear he didn’t get the best start when he was Buster’s age. With my help they will make sure Buster is properly introduced to the outside word of dogs, people, vehicles, wheelie bins, paper bags, buggies and so on. All the experiences should be positive.

They should start this right away. The clock is ticking. Buster needs plenty of early exposure before he is fully vaccinated and ready to put down on the ground. They will have to carry him.

Poor Tom is scared of so many things, particularly when out of the house.

The main priority at present is to get the nervous dog’s stress levels down. To build up his confidence. Then he will be in a better state of mind to cope with Buster and to enjoy his company.

Every time Tom has to face things he is scared of without the opportunity to escape, it makes him worse. Every day he has to face the ordeal of a walk, particularly as it means going under a scary underpass if they are gong to get to the green. This is much too big a price to pay for exercise.

Building confidence in the nervous dog.

They will go back to basics with him and build up the nervous dog’s confidence immediately outside the house, going no further for now. Without this daily stress Tom should then become more resilient around Buster.

Buster fortunately seems a very confident puppy though he hates being alone. After all, he had lots of siblings and had never been alone before. He has adopted a bean bag as his favourite sleeping place, snuggling into it like it’s a pile of puppies.

Patiently and gradually they will wean him into being alone. Over the next six weeks I shall be helping them with all the usual puppy things, a mix of settling into his new life and pre-empting any future possible problems. We will start loose lead walking and basic training.

Confident little Buster may well, in the future, be a real confidence booster to nervous dog Tom – and even bring out the inner, carefree puppy in him.

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 Tom and Buster and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you 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, particularly where fearfulness is concerned. 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)

 

Older Dog and New Puppy. Aggression to Puppy.

Older dog and new puppy don't get on

Pepe

Older dog and new puppy can’t be together.

Frenchie Pepe, now four years old, is not getting on with the new puppy. This isn’t so surprising seeing as he doesn’t like dogs in general. The only dog he’s okay with is their Shitzu, Daisy, who is now eleven years old and was already in the household before Pepe arrived as a puppy himself.

He was fine until he had a heart operation that has left him unable to go for walks. He’s become increasingly hostile to dogs on the few occasions he has been out, and spends hours each day chasing them away from his house from an upstairs window by barking.

Not a good lesson for a puppy.

Poor little Zeeva, a Boston Terrier now twelve weeks old, is getting some very negative behaviour from both older dogs. Older Daisy just wants to be left alone and shows her teeth whenever she is close. Pepe gets fierce with her, jumps on her and pins her down by the neck.

This sort of thing is likely to lead to Zeeva herself becoming a dog that doesn’t trust other dogs.

So the puppy is now mostly kept the other side of a closed door.

It’s an active household. People come and go all the time and three generations of family members live there including children. Pepe is very chilled with humans. They are a lovely family all working together for the best for their three dogs and the children have been taught to treat them with respect which is wonderful to see.

It’s just such a shame that the older dog and new puppy have to be kept apart.

Jealous.

Another problem for Pepe is that puppy Zeeva usurps his position on the lady’s lap in the evening! This is the only way they can have Zeeva in the same room as Pepe.

Zeeva

Jealousy is a horrible feeling and dogs I’m sure feel it too. It can’t help Pepe’s antagonism towards her at all. Now if Pepe comes to the lady and Zeeva is on her lap, she will try either feeding him to build up some good associations or passing Zeeva to someone else.

The first job is to make Pepe as ‘fit’ as possible for the job – lowering his stress levels, optimising his diet and giving his life more enrichment.

Unable to go for walks, his days lack interest despite having so many humans around him. He needs to sniff, do dog things and see the wider world. They will now be taking him out the front on a longish lead and allow him to watch the world go by. This will be an opportunity to sniff where other dogs have peed. They can begin to change his behaviour towards passing dogs near the bolthole of an open front door.

For a dog that does very little he undoubtedly eats too much and some of it is the wrong stuff for the best mental state. He can now start working for food by foraging for it around the garden or getting it from a Kong Wobbler.

So, work involves getting Pepe to feel better about dogs in general and most particularly to ‘like’ Zeeva. We have a plan that can be modified if necessary as we go along.

Playing safe and preventing further rehearsal.

The most important thing when you have an older dog showing aggression towards a puppy is to play safe. In every way to prevent further rehearsal. It’s harder to come back from things once they have happened as they are likely to happen again. The three dogs had been out together briefly when supervised in the garden, but now Zeeva will be on lead. Currently they are relying upon calling her to them but that’s risky. With no leash they have no reliable control.

Many people would have the older dog on lead, but I feel it should be the puppy. She is the one, after all, who needs to be prevented from annoying the older dogs and the one who may need to be scooped up quickly.

For a few days they will keep bars of the dog gate or puppy pen between the Zeeva and Pepe. They had been shutting the door but this removes any safe, supervised opportunity for them to get to know each other.

Older dog and new puppy with bars between them.

Sitting down on the floor with the older dog and new puppy in the puppy pen, they will do two things, using a clicker. They will reinforce Pepe for looking towards the puppy in a soft or interested way – with chicken. If he’s ‘eyeballing’ in a harder kind of way (they understand!) they will wait for Pepe to look away briefly and immediately reinforce. To begin with they may need to make a small distracting sound to achieve this.

Daisy

Zeeva should be fed also in order to feel Pepe isn’t so bad after all.

I feel that we humans need to keep ourselves out of the picture in these situations. It’s about the dogs, their emotions and the food. If we bombard them with words it confuses things.

The time should come when they don’t need bars between them. Keeva on lead and other dogs loose, they can be together in the sitting room. It would be best when puppy Keeva is tired! They need two people, one to hold the lead and the other to work on Pepe.

Who knows how long it will take before all three dogs to be freely together? I’m sure they will get there if they take it slowly enough and help Pepe in a positive way, never scolding.

A photo received about five weeks later:

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Pepe, Zeeva and Daisy. 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, particularly where aggression of any kind 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).

 

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)

Introducing a New Puppy

Introducing a New Puppy. They were shocked when the older dog growled.

They are very concerned because Fen growled at the new puppy.

introducing a new puppy - Pug

Bailey

I look at this very differently. Hooray for the older dog growling!

The thirteen-week-old pug puppy is let free in the room, in Labrador Fen’s room, and gets a bit too familiar too soon. If Fen didn’t growl they would never know that she was feeling uneasy or threatened and then what might happen?

Bailey is delightful. He is brave and playful as a puppy ought to be. Fen is now eight years old and doesn’t want to be jumped all over and that is fair enough. So she gives a warning growl. The puppy understands what that means but the the humans get alarmed.

Fen has been less patient of late with other dogs when out and they are afraid she may hurt the puppy.

I have seldom met a more patient and tolerant dog than Fen. Even when out she very rarely has reacted to another dog and then only when provoked. Their older dog had died and Fen probably feels a bit more anxious now without her.

The lady and the young daughter in particular are anxious. Very wisely they now have puppy Bailey in a crate when the two dogs are in the same room.

Introducing new puppy to black labrador

Fen

Fen is absolutely fine with sniffing Bailey through the bars. She is perfectly relaxed in the same room as her but she doesn’t want to be jumped on or interfered with. She needs to get used to him first.

.

People often do things the wrong way round.

One thing I find is that people usually restrain the older dog on a lead and let the puppy bound all over the place. This is wrong.

It should be the puppy that is restrained on lead. Fen can then sniff and interact with him if and when she wishes, knowing that she can escape out of his reach at any time.

They also need the kitchen door gated so that puppy can have freedom from the crate and people can relax. If they are constantly worrying and can’t leave both dogs alone, Fen is sure to pick up on it. Introducing a new puppy through a gate works best. Both dogs are free – and safe.

Good associations should be actively built up and with Fen food will work best. At the gate, or when Bailey is in the same room and on lead, she can be fed tiny and specially tasty bits of food – and so can Bailey

The garden is a great place to introduce a new puppy. The puppy on lead with older dog free (perhaps trailing a lead if the people are anxious).

It’s important that little Bailey doesn’t experience provoked aggression or anger from Fen at this crucial stage in her life. She needs to know that other dogs are nice and she should grow up to be a gentle and sociable adult dog herself. A little later when the two are freely together, any play that becomes too rough should be interrupted immediately for the same reason.

I shall go back soon when puppy has settled in. We are already working on toilet training and will look at some clicker training and introducing a new puppy to walking on lead.

We will also do some basic work with Fen on walks, to make sure she’s not put into a position where she is forced to react to other dogs by being too close and unable to escape.

I love jobs where it a case of introducing a new puppy.

Here is a cute video of Bailey. I had given him my puppy toy to keep him busy. Is it alive?

 

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 Bailey and Fen. 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 introducing dogs to one another 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)

Start Off Right With New Puppy

I have just been to a divine ten-week-old Sprocker puppy. The picture doesn’t show how little Digby is.Ten week old new puppy, a Sprocker

They have had him for five days now and have signed up for my Puppy Parenting plan, wanting to get things right from the start with their new puppy, pre-empting as far as is possible any future problems and starting on basic training.

This was my first visit, to set things up.

Already he is nearly house trained with just the occasional accident. They are carrying him outside each time having read somewhere that that’s what they should do. This seems strange to me. If the puppy walks then he will learn the route and routine a lot more quickly and to stand at that door if it’s shut and he wants to go out.

We went through each area of his life to make sure things go off to the best start.

They have chosen to crate train him and he is quite happy to be left alone for short periods, so separation issues later on are unlikely.

Having spoken to me on the phone, they are now upping their socialisation of Digby and acclimatisation to things such as traffic, noises, people of all sorts and ages, other dogs, the car and so on – within the restrictions of being unable to put him down until his injections are finished. He seems a stable and fearless pup.

One thing people do find hard is not to over-excite a puppy when they come home or when friends first meet him.  Another thing that can seem unnatural to people is to constantly be carrying food around with them! Teaching a puppy the behaviours we want using food is so much more effective that trying to teach a puppy what we don’t want using ‘No’ – and a lot kinder too.

Environmental adjustments need to be made for a while – chewable or eatable things removed and maybe people wearing shoes rather than just socks – there is nothing more fun to chase and chew than a socked foot attached to a human who gets excited or shouts ‘No’ when they feel his little teeth!

Most puppies have a ‘bonkers half hour’ and Digby’s seems to be in the morning. I find evening more usual. A puppy may suddenly start to race around like a little tornado, and as he or she gets bigger things can go flying and people may be nipped! The bottled up energy or maybe stress needs to vent somehow and I suggest a carton containing rubbish that he can wreck and things he can chew along with bits of food to forage for.

We looked at the best way to teach Digby ‘Sit’ for starters, more things when he’s fully settled. I don’t like the word ‘command’. I prefer ‘cue’. I showed the lady how to do a little walking around the house with Digby beside her, off lead to start with.

Amongst other things we can pre-empt are any resource guarding behaviours by always doing an exchange and teaching Give from the start. Then the rewarding fun doesn’t come from the chase and eventual scariness of being cornered as the item is forced from the puppy’s mouth.

The gentleman, like many people, may find it a challenge to avoid telling the puppy ‘No’. How else will he learn what’s wrong? There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to a puppy of course. There are things that make him feel good, things that are boring, and things that make him feel bad. Digby will be exploring his new environment, licking this, chewing that, running about, and then suddenly a loud male human loudly says NO. He may stop in his tracks but I doubt he will know what he’s done that has made his human bark at him.

Some things he can chew, some things he can’t?

It’s so much better to call him away and give him something that he is allowed to chew instead.

Too much ‘No’ can result in a new puppy becoming confused or defiant – or maybe frightened. Digby seems a well-rounded little character and his family are determined to do everything right for him, so thankfully that won’t happen in his case.

 

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 – general puppy parenting in this case. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may well be different to the approach I have worked out for Digby. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can cause confusion. 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 puppy (see myGet Help page).

Rottweillers, Guard Duty, Puppy, Children.

Rottie Jake is a mellow character

Jake

I went to Rottie Jake and 11-week-old Bert yesterday. Jake is a very mellow character who, despite being given the free run of many unfenced acres day and night and is a formidable guard dog, encouraged to chase visiting cars down the track as they leave,  is also a gentle family pet with their children, something I found really surprising.

And now they have Bert who so far was behaving like the perfect puppy! I was considering calling the meeting off.

Bert was so far behaving like the perfect puppy

Bert

Soon I discovered that Bert was an altogether different personality to Jake. He is allowed to give Jake grief and they leave Jake to ‘teach’ him. If all Jake’s quite scary warnings continue to be ignored he may eventually crack and hurt Bert. Despite Jake being extremely self-controlled, Bert is learning that aggression, growling and snapping is acceptable as is his own pushy, rough behaviour with Jake. He has been hit for doing the usual puppy things of grabbing and nipping the girls’ clothes and skin – and apart from anything else, this can’t be the way to teach him to be gentle. He has already started to growl at the children if they touch him when he’s resting.

Don’t get me wrong – the dogs are greatly loved, and little Bert is given plenty of time in training and being taught manners. The children play an active part.

The overall situation could well become difficult when Bert is bigger, with two large male Rottweillers running free outside, especially if the two dogs ‘pack up’. I hope the relationship between the two dogs doesn’t become a problem when Bert, a much more dominant character, grows able to physically assert himself over Jake. For an environment that includes children, the dogs in my opinion have far too much freedom and ‘ownership’ of territory. Jake has never run off, but who knows what a bigger Bert might do if he sees a deer or a hare?

Some of my forebodings were justified as I was leaving and saw just how stressed Jake was and how he very nearly redirected onto the man – one step further and he would have bitten him. This was due to a build up of stressors. Jake was surrounded by people as he lay on his bed – enough to make any dog uneasy. I had been taking a photo of him which also made him uneasy. He was licking his lips and nose – a sure sign of anxiety. Bert was then on top of him giving him grief. The man then knelt down and stroked him on the head which, with Bert all over him, would have been the last thing he wanted. His warnings to Bert (and possibly the man too) went unheeded and nobody helped him out, so it quickly escalated. The wonderful boy did his very best to keep himself calm, but there is a breaking point.

Poor Jake is now living under a lot more pressure and I would worry if the children were alone with the dogs when stressors build up as they did just before I left. Family pets need parenting/leadership, and this means physical boundaries with owners making the decisions as to where the dogs go and when, to take responsibility for protection and guard duty along with control over how their dogs behave towards one another.

All this freedom day and night may be okay for guard dogs, but not good for family pets.

Unpredictable Around Other Dogs

Molly is an excellent family dogbrindledMolly2Molly, a Staffie-German Shepherd mix age 6, came from Battersea as a puppy. She is a very good family dog, in an  environment with a lot of noise and stimulation, sparring between the men, and comings and goings in general.

She is inclined to be nervous, with noise and conflict stressing her in particular. She can’t tell the difference between play sparring and the real thing and she goes frantic, trying to break them up, whilst it causes them amusement. This mustn’t continue. She is also scared of certain people who come into the house and will bark at them quite scarily sometimes.

The main problem is that from a dog that used be fine with other dogs, she is now unpredictable and reactive. Some dogs she will hackle, growl, lunge and bark at, others she will ignore. She gets good days and she gets bad days. The reaction of her humans is inconsistent, with the men inclined to use force in the presence of other dogs. Walking is no longer a pleasure. She wants to pull, but this is prevented with constant correction and commands. I did suggest that as these methods of getting her to walk nicely have been used for six years now so they obviously don’t work!

Chilled dogs seldom are reactive to other dogs. There is a lot in Molly’s life at home that can be changed to make her more relaxed, not least her diet and the way she is fed. It is known that diet affects behaviour and Molly’s is fairly random. Lots of snacks, unhealthy stuff and sharing human food, along with low quality dog food. Too much protein can cause aggression and certain additives can cause hyperactivity. She has already been checked over by the vet – an essential first step to be as sure as possible that it’s not something physical causing the changes in her behaviour.

Today the excited family are picking up a puppy from the local rescue centre. Teddy is nearly eight weeks old and tiny – a mix between a Bichon Frise and something else. For his sake some consistent rules and boundaries need to be put in place, especially around food and Molly’s reactivity to certain callers to the house. The atmosphere surrounding the dogs at home needs to be much calmer. Molly will need a refuge from Teddy when he gets over-excited as puppies do, and for a while he will need to be kept safe from her – just in case. They have met briefly and all seemed to be fine but they will get a puppy pen to be on the safe side; the dogs can then be in the same room together and get to know one another in safety.

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.
 

Starting Puppy off the Right Way

cavapoo2Jazz is an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Poodle mix – a Cavapoo. She is just thirteen weeks old.

Her owners want to make sure things start off the right way, having had a very difficult time with their previous dog.

Apart from advice regarding feeding, toilet training and walking, there is an even more important area if you want a well adjusted puppy growing into a stable mature dog. It is about how you interact with the puppy.

Just imagine how huge and noisy humans must seem to something so small! If they surround her with too much noise, too many commands and too much excitement, or ‘dominance’ of any sort, one of three things will happen. She may become scared of them, she may stand up to them as she gets bigger and become defiant and difficult, or she may get hardened and take no notice of  them unless they are very exciting or noisy.

The more calm Jazz is the more gentle she will be. The quieter the humans are, the more Jazz will learn to listen. Even praise should be given gently.  They don’t want to overwhelm her because apart from anything else she will be distracted and the reason for the praise will be entirely lost.

The dog is largely a reflection of the owner. Calm, gentle, consistent and patient owners will usually have a stable dog with self-control.

 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.