Fearful Jack Russell Barks at people

Jack Russell Rosie is a well behaved little dog when not stressedHere is Rosie, a two-year-old Jack Russell re-homed from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago.

She has landed on her feet with a lady who is very empathetic to her needs and who instinctively understands the balance between loving Rosie and giving her space.

Previously Rosie had been living much of the time in a crate, muzzled. Because of how she drinks water in a strange way with her head on one side, she must have worn the tight muzzle for a long time.

She is an extremely well-behaved little dog when not stressed. She’s not demanding, she is polite around food, she doesn’t bark at passers by, she can be left alone without crying, she never damages things, she never toilets in the house and, as you can see, she is beautiful!

However, she is very scared of people. She barks frantically at anyone coming into her house and has now nipped a guest. When I arrived she was barking and growling from behind the gate. We worked on this until, by the end, I was walking around the room without a reaction. You can see she was now quite relaxed!

She needs to be gradually desensitised. They need plenty of callers who are willing to behave exactly as requested, friends popping in for half an hour whilst the lady follows our plan. There is a thin line between pushing Rosie beyond what she can cope with, whilst stretching her a little. I know her new owner will be getting this right.

Rosie has similar problems when encountering people out on walks, and dogs. She’s not consistent however. She is worse at the end of a walk – an indication that the walk is too stimulating or too long.

With work, patience and given sufficient time, I am sure that Rosie will eventually be happy for people to come into the house and that outside she will not react adversely to people and other dogs.

Here is an email I have recived two days later: ‘Now, a remarkable walk this morning.  I put Rosie on a long lead like the one you showed me.  I held it loose and Rosie did not pull.  As we got to the end of the Chinese Bridge we were approached by two people and two greyhounds.  Still on the loose lead Rosie did not show any calming signals.  As we got nearer she did then prick up her ears and so I did the arc movement.  Amazing, she then walked past the dogs without looking at them!!  … I kept her on the loose lead whilst we walked.  Two dogs in the distance both on long leads.  She showed no interest.  When they had gone, I let her off the lead and we played with a frisbee type toy.  … as you suggested I called come and each time she came I rewarded her for the ‘come’ rather than asking her to sit.  It works!!  Heading back home we came across two more dogs, both on long leads.  Rosie seemed calmer and only ‘looked’ and as she moved forward again I used the arc movement.  Miraculous.  I know it is early days, but I cannot even explain how much better this makes me feel.  It is so demoralizing to have an aggressive dog, but today was a pleasure’. I replied to be prepared for there to be many lapses. It would indeed be an unusual miracle if a permanent corner were turned quite so easily, but you never know, a combination of appropriate strategies and the lady’s own karma may be the perfect mix!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Mouthy Newfoundland Puppy

Newfie puppy is a naughty adorable ball of fluffDashi is sixteen weeks old and already getting big – a large ball of sometimes naughty fluff! Adorable.

She was on her best behaviour when I was there – like so many dogs seem to be – so I didn’t see her at her worst. In most ways she is wonderful. She is already quite good on lead, she seldom jumps up, she is calm around food and already she is completely house-trained.

The problem is that she uses her mouth too freely! She grabs, nips and bites. She grabs trousers, she grabs arms and she bites hands. She chases and bites shoes, and when the little girl is sitting at the tables she goes for her feet which starts a commotion with screaming and scolding which winds her up even more.

‘Discipline’ is lost on Dashi and only makes her worse. I did notice a growl when she nipped the lady as she moved the little girl’s chair out from the table, and I fear this is the direction it will be leading if confrontational ‘dominating’ methods are used – or anger. They have had several Newfies before, but not one as wilful as Dashi.

There needs to be a lot more encouragement and teaching Dashi the desired behaviour as opposed to just chastising for the bad stuff. They are now going to do all they can to reward the positive. With the biting and shoe chasing a replacement behaviour needs to be taught and they are working on an alternative using clicker training which (now day 2) already seems to be getting her attention. The environment itself and daily routine needs tweaking in order to remove as much opportunity for the undesirable behaviours as possible and to keep her busily occupied.

It is hard to remember she is only sixteen weeks old and not to expect too much of her, like not taking the child’s toys or chewing things that are left about, chasing the cat or getting excited when a child is running about. These things have to be taught patiently and kindly over time, using reward and encouragement.

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

Another Terrier X From Ireland

Anxious looking rescue dog from IrelandHeidi who I saw a couple of days ago came from Ireland and was probably terrier mixed with Collie, and Ben I saw today was also shipped over from Ireland, as a puppy, and may be the same mix if more terrier than Collie. Both dogs are reactive and scared of dogs and people, especially when out, and both live with an older, larger dog. Ben lives with eight-year-old Chocolate Labrador Billy.

As you can see, Ben is lovely. He is affectionate and biddable though can be anxious and over-excited. He is three years old.

Ben barks and hackles at people he doesn’t know entering the house, men mainly, and at people he sees when out. Like Heidi he may rush at them and nip them. Ben’s reactivity to other dogs is spoiling walks. He will bark and lunge. It is obvious that he feels threatened, and simply wants them to go away.

When left alone at home, he is anxious – destroying things and raiding the bin. He has damaged the sofa.

A dog needs to believe in his owners as leaders, I see it like a good teacher with a class of children on a walk. They will stay with the teacher. They won’t be running off in front and they won’t be yelling and shouting at passers by, telling them rudely to get lost (I hope!).  They trust the teacher to make the decisions and keep them safe. If the owners can convince the dog that they are good leaders – and this has to happen at home as well as out on walks – then the dog can relax and stop stressing. It takes time of course.

Too often people make things worse by tightening the lead and forcing the dog forward towards what he perceives as danger.  They compound the problem by being tense and anxious or scolding the dog. If there were genuine danger, our teacher would not lead his class directly into it, would he? If he did, he would soon lose their trust and they may well run away from him. If the danger was not genuine, then it would be his job to convince the children that they were safe. He would be calm and in control. So it is with us and our dogs.

Phone conversation three days after my visit: Off to a very good start. Ben is calmer. Changed his food to something better. Harness has arrived. Bought a long lead.  He was left alone for 5 hours today and no damage or raiding.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Little dog Living in a Tent

Pip is a dear little scruffy-haired Jack RussellScruffy Jack Russell lying in front of the wood burner, one year of age, who has been in his new home for one month. Home is a Mongolian Yurt – a round tent. It was minus 5 degrees last night and I went expecting to be cold, but with a log burner in the middle it was snug and warm and surprisingly spacious.

After a rather excitable start, Pip settled down in front of the fire.

When he arrived a month ago Pip was totally hyper. He leapt and flew all over the place, grabbing and mouthing. Patience and hard work has really calmed him down at home although there is still a way to go, but he is after all little more than a puppy.

It is out on walks that the problems really  start.

He behaves almost like he has never been on a lead before. He pulls frantically. At the sight of another dog he is very unpredictable and I believe he feels insecure – as well he might, held tightly by an anxious human with no freedom to escape. At other dogs he tends to bark, rear up and go frantic. He has nipped two or three times. The final straw was when he got himself so worked up that he wound his lead around the lady’s legs, and when she accidentally trod on him he bit her – totally out of character but indicating just how fired up and stressed he was.

Certain TV programmes promote extreme exercise as the way to deal with problems such as this – long hikes, treadmills and the like. Apart from anything else, this is not what a terrier has been bred for. I have found time and time again that long walks, unless calm and happy, can over-stimulate a dog. It is no surprise that so many incidents happen at the end of a walk when he the dog is supposed to be tired out.

When I can get people to trust me and to see this, to go back to basics with several very short expeditions whilst teaching loose-lead walking and the joy of stress-free walking with a ‘leader’, dogs like Pip eventually are a dream to take out. It can take a lot of time. Unfortunately too many people give up too soon – or are persuaded by well meaning ‘experts’  and ‘dog-loving friends’ that they should be taking their dogs for long walks to to tire them out. Would you put a disturbed or hyperactive child on a treadmnill to tire it into compliance? No! I rest my case.

Pip’s owner was already very switched on before I visited, so it will be interesting to chart Pip’s progress.

She has worked very hard for the past six or seven weeks, two steps forward and one back. The yurt is not soundproofed which means that Pip hears all the night time noises. Here is the latest email: “Things here are ticking along ok and I am realising that my mood effects Pip. Had a family dinner at my uncles and ended up taking pip home….. Definitely only pip with the family at small calm gatherings for now.  On a positive note Pip is really good in the yurt and garden i love him in these situations he’s so good and often just sits and sun bathes!! he’s learning lots of new tricks has plenty to entertain himself with and at least now when I hear him barking I call him and he comes back in the yurt. We had no nighttime barking since we spoke, fingers crossed for tonight!”
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.


Protective Nervous Border Collies

Two challenging Border ColliesI have just had a challenging evening with two border collies, Will and Ruby. Their owners have not had a guest to their house for two years now because of their dog’s behaviour. They both lunge and bark at people in a scary way and have bitten, and they can’t even be left in another room because Will panics, makes a lot of noise and is destructive in his panic to get out.  Both dogs have crates. Ruby is happy to be in her crate, but Will makes a lot of noise in his desperation to get out. He suffers from separation anxiety and has actually broken out on a couple of occasions, injuring himself trying to escape when left alone.

The gentleman first brought Will into the room on lead (I was furthest from the door), and by using the advance/retreat technique Will eventually calmed down sufficiently to stop barking at me and lie down. The owner then brought Ruby in and we went through the process again. Eventually both settled (held firmly on leads) – until I moved! It is hard to talk without moving and I know I can be quite animated.  I kept sending the dogs all the calming signals I know, and instructed the owners in keeping calm and quiet – though it is very difficult not to jump and scare a skittish dog when she is quietly sniffing you and then suddenly gives a loud bark right in your ear! One dog set the other off again.

This is a challenging situation because the lady owner is unwell and unable to do much with the dogs. In fact, it has got to the stage where she doesn’t really want them, though the man who is stronger feels differently. Will, who was rescued at five months, originally accompanied the man to his work as a groundsman in a country park, but soon had to be left at home because of his guarding and aggressive behaviour towards people. Neither dog can be walked on lead by anybody except the man who is strong enough to handle the excessive pulling and aggressive reactions to dogs and people, and the chasing behaviour with wheels and joggers. People have been nipped and bitten.

We have created a plan that, with the help of her family, will encourage the lady not to give up on her dogs; something that gives the dogs a bit more stimulation and leadership but within her capabilities, including strategies to deal with Will’s separation problems and both dogs’ fearful behaviouron walks and towards any people who do not live in their house. It is going to take a considerable length of time, and I hope they will stay the course.

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