Beautiful Border Collie Puppy

Five month old Border CollieOh joy! I met Benjie a five-month-old Border Collie puppy yesterday evening.

It’s just too easy to forget what puppies are like, when you have been living with a mature dog for years. Whilst wanting to train him properly so that he grows into a reliable and obedient adult dog, it’s easy to expect far too much of a puppy and actually ending up with the opposite result.

At five months old one would expect a puppy to tear about, to get easily excited and especially to chew things. Just think how he would be if still with one of his brothers or sisters! Dealing with jumping all over chairs and people in a confrontational way, with lots of ‘No’ and Down’, pushing and getting cross, achieves the opposite. The puppy is hyped up and the behaviour accelerates to nipping and barking back – or worse, he gets scared. He is confused because he has no clue why people are angry. After all, a well-balanced older dog that doesn’t want to be jumped on won’t shout! What would he do? He would tip the exuberant youngster off and with his body language make it quite clear he didn’t want it. He would probably turn away or walk away.

As puppies become adolescent a confrontational approach usually makes the young dog defiant. He is now a teenager after all. He will answer back with either barking or teeth.

The rule is to keep calm, to repeatedly and consistently call the puppy away from what you don’t want him to do – he may even need to trail a short light lead for a while so you can help him to make the right decision (he may chew it!). Then let him know what it is you do want him to do.  Give him an alternative whether it is coming to you for a short fuss or a treat, or giving him a toy or bone to chew. If he is very persistent, a few seconds behind a closed door may help the message to get through.

They have a four-year old son who plays too rough and excited with him and this is hyping Benjie up and teaching him the wrong things. They have tried this and that but not been consistent, and called me because they were not happy with having to be cross with him, nor the ‘forcing’ techniques they had been introduced to at a puppy class they attended just the once. While I was there I could myself demonstrate how to show Benjie not to jump all over me in a way that he understands. He is delightfully biddable whilst full of natural puppy fun.

Sometimes owners just need to be pointed in the right direction and know what puppy behaviour to expect. Benjie is a wonderful puppy and will grow up to be a cracking dog.

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

Jumping up and teeth

Whippet Cocker mixLucy is the most endearing little dog. She is a seven month old Whippet/Cocker Spaniel mix, with a whippet body and cocker spaniel ears – and bounce! With this breed combination one would not expect her to be slow and placid! Mix this with two young children and you have a recipe for EXCITEMENT.

Lucy does many of the things most young dogs do – but to excess. Jumping up, flying about, nipping and whining if shut out. Nothing new really! I have personal experience from my own working cocker spaniel Pickle, now 11 months old, of a young dog fired with rocket fuel.  Everything he does is at double speed – he can’t even spare the time to stay still long enough to toilet so does it on the run. With Pickle I knew what to do from day one and he learnt that jumping up never got him any attention. If he jumped on people we would turn away or simply stand up to tip him off. No eye contact, no touching and no words. If he jumped at a table he would be patiently, quietly, gently and consistently removed by his collar or harness. If he became over-excited he would be calmly put in his crate for a short ‘time-out’ break to calm down.  Consistency is the key.

Pickle never did use his teeth though. This will be because he was with at least one other sibling until eleven weeks of age and puppies learn from one another. Lucy unfortunately left her litter at six weeks old and her new family didn’t realise how important it was to teach the tiny puppy not to use her teeth – but in a way the other puppies would – with a short squeal and walking or turning away. Lucy thinks the children’s reaction to her nipping is play. Shouting OUCH is meaningless to a puppy. Pushing her away is a game and an invitation to nip hands and arms. Tapping her on the nose is an invitation to a rough game or a bite.

This is a superb little dog. We will take things a bit at a time. Firstly curb the jumping and nipping, and basic lead work in the garden and near to home without children or buggy. They will do their best to avoid unecessary excitement. Until she is a bit calmer nothing more can be done. The slightest bit off attention hypes her up.

We can then look at teaching a few basics like sit, down and stay, and taking the walking a bit further afield.

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

Misunderstood

Rottweiller, Labrador Collie mixBelle is just fifteen months old and has lived alone with her lady owner’s until a week or so ago. She is a mix of Rottweiler, Labrador and Collie, though looks mainly Rottie. Here she is with a tennis ball.

A week ago the lady’s new boyfriend moved in. Poor Belle is confused and unhappy.

I was called out because a few days ago she had nipped the man – we will call him John. John’s very understandable human reaction was to be confrontational. Already the bar has been raised. Where Belle may now be backing away, she will soon stand her ground I’m sure.

John and the lady like to cuddle on the sofa – the sofa Belle used to share with the lady. Belle jumps between them and gets agitated. She may grab an arm or clothes. The lady says she is jealous. She is certainly trying to split them up. Belle doesn’t understand humans cuddling. The nearest thing a dog would do, using body contact and paws, could be a sign of trouble brewing. In this case another dog would step in and split the pair by getting between them. So, for doing what any good dog in a dog group would do – splitting up potential conflict – poor Belle is in trouble.

To Belle John has become some sort of challenge. The final straw was when John and the lady were mucking about. He picked her up and threw her about and she screamed in play. Belle warned, snarled, growled and then jumped at John and gave him a big nip. Without doubt, because of the squeals, Belle thought the lady was being attacked and was left with no choice other than to protect her. They were left wondering whether they have a dangerous dog, not realising it could have been a lot worse.

I hope I have managed to open their eyes to understanding Belle, and that they will stop to think how what they do might impact on her, trying to see things from her point of view. I also hope she isn’t sidelined in their new life. She needs calm and consistent leadership and quality time spent with her. Being cuddled one moment and then disciplined the next for something she doesn’t understand using confrontation can only lead to bigger trouble.

At the end of the day Belle would be the one to pay the price, and she is a lovely natured dog who deserves to be understood.

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

Rottie taught Dominance and Aggression

16 month old Rottweiler in his third home alreadyBaxter is a 16 months old Rottie and onto his third home already. His new owners have had him for just five days, and are determined to turn his life around.

It is evident that Baxter has been abused in the past by humans using force and dominance to control him. Because of this, aggressive human control is the only ‘language’ he really understands. It has to be increasingly forceful for him to even take notice.

Unfortunately, if you continue down that route (domination, force, pinning down and so on) where does it end?  Shock collars? Beatings? The situation escalates and will almost certainly get out of hand – to the point where Baxter wins through sheer strength and determination, eventually doing someone serious damage.

That would be the end of Baxter.

Baxter’s new lady owner is covered in bruises from nips and grabs. He’s not aggressive as such. He is a big teenage bully –  like a human adolescent who has grown up in a violent family. Like most bullies, he is also a coward and is easily spooked.

The lady is up for it, and I shall be working closely with her while she starts to show Baxter by her own behaviour that she is to be respected. Leadership has to be earned, and requires calm confidence. Baxter needs to learn straight away the behaviours that are unacceptable. At present he starts to lick, then mouth, then grab, then nip and there is a sequence. It is allowed to continue until it hurts and becomes a battle of wills and strength. They must react immediately, but calmly. Zero tolerance.  Otherwise how can Baxter learn?

He loses control of himself very quickly, so they must watch for signs of stress and immediately stop what they are doing, whether it’s going straight back home having been out for just a couple of minutes, coming in from the garden even if in the middle of doing something, or walking out of the room even if they are in the middle of a good TV programme.

Punishment, shouting ‘NO’, pushing him away, pinning him down are all ways of giving him attention under his own terms, in a ‘language’ he is already good at and gets better at all the time, and simply reinforces his bad behaviour.

But what can they do instead? That is what we are working on together.

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