Adolescent Dog is Uncontrollable

Sammy giving us a break while he chews

Sammy giving us a break while he chews

I was met at the door by the lady restraining a manic, stripey dog! As soon as the door was shut behind me I asked her to let go of him and the tiger was unleashed!

I ignored it as he jumped at me grabbing my arm (I wear tough clothes) and turned away quickly as he leapt to punch me in the face with his muzzle.

This would have been a lot more alarming if there was any hint of aggression, which there wasn’t. The lady has bruises all up her arms and admits she’s now getting a bit scared of her adolescent dog. It’s really all to do with lack of self-control. He has no idea how to inhibit the use of his teeth – or anything else for that matter. This is little surprise considering what little the lady knows of his start in life.

Seven-month-old Sammy, probably a Beagle cross, may have come from Ireland but the story probably shouldn’t be believed. He was going to be ‘sent back where he came from’ and put to sleep if the lady didn’t buy him.  She was told he was eleven weeks old but the vet said he was a lot younger.

I would guess he was removed from his siblings far too soon to have learnt the valuable lessons of bite inhibition and manners, all in order for someone to make a quick buck.

He is a stunning dog and he is clever. However, he is on the go nearly all the time when not asleep at night or when the lady is at work. It is non-stop. She has taken all sorts of advice and also taken him to training classes, but still finds him uncontrollable. He has plenty of exercise. The slightest bit of stimulation sends him over the top.

brindled Beagle mix

I managed to catch Sammy standing still

It was hard to know just how to begin. We couldn’t shut him away because the lady lives in a flat and he can’t be allowed to bark too much. In the end the only thing I could do was ask her to put a lead on him and then stand on it so he simply couldn’t hurt me – we later attached the lead to his harness for the sake of his neck.

Then I did some work with him, walking him around whilst being ready to react fast to being ‘attacked’, rewarding him for sitting and reinforcing times when he didn’t try to jump. It’s so natural to ignore the good behaviour, making the best of any short break, but this means he gets all his attention for the wrong things.

I taught him not to mug my hand with both teeth and nails for the food. Already he was displaying just a little bit of impulse control.

It was a start.

I keep a Stagbar in my bag which I gave him to chew. While the lady held onto his lead and he worked on the Stagbar, we managed to get some talking done and devise an initial plan of action. Until he has calmed down and learnt to control himself a bit, very little more can be done.

The lady will need to wear tough clothes so that she doesn’t have to give in to the rough behaviour by giving him the attention he craves. She may also need to have an anchor point in the room to hook him onto when he goes really wild, for her own protection. She will have a special box of things to keep him busy when anchored as this must not be done in the spirit of punishment

But protecting herself  and containing him is only half the story. Sammy needs to learn that it’s a different sort of behaviour that is now going to get the best results. We have made a list of about ten activities she can initiate at regular intervals, things that will focus his mind and calm him down, so that instead of spending most of the time they are together simply fielding and responding to his antics, she herself will initiate frequent constructive things for him to do in very short sessions. She will keep him busy but under her own terms. She will reward every small thing that she likes – looking out for the good in him.

Eventually, after two hours, Sammy had tired himself out

Eventually, after two hours, Sammy had tired himself out

This isn’t going to be easy because after seven months his crazy behaviours are a habit and won’t be changed easily. She will need to be very patient and persevere, rejoicing in the smallest of improvements as they occur. All she has been able to do in the past is to shout at him and give him commands – he knows to sit and lie down when in the mood but when aroused it simply makes him worse.

I see this as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Before real work can be done there are a number pieces to be put in place that will calm him down and focus his brain. These include a suitable diet. One would see the connection between diet and behaviour with a hyperactive child with ADHD, but this doesn’t occur to a lot of us where our dogs are concerned.

Beautiful Dog but Out of Control

English Bull Terrier on the stairsIf a picture could tell a story – this is it!

Sometimes I go to a situation where it’s hard to know where to start, particularly if the dog is jumping up and flying all over the place, desperate for attention – which she’s accustomed to getting in the form of being told off harshly and NO!

We sat down at the dining table and eighteen-month-old English Bull Terrier Millie was straight up onto it. The lady shouted at her to get down which she ignored. She takes very little notice of the lady who has to speak loudly and fiercely to get Millie to take acknowledge her at all. The lady absolutely adores her and it’s hard for her when her dog is so out of control.

It’s amazing what tiny pieces of cheese and a quiet voice can achieve!

It took a long while – most of the three hours that I was there discussing all the things necessary in a consultation – but by the end Millie was sitting down in the corner beside my chair. I did it by simply not trying to tell her to do anything. The lady herself now needs to be able to motivate her to willingly do things without using any force.

First, instead of dealing with the jumping and getting onto the table, I dealt with what we did want – with her getting off the table and jumping onto the floor. Soon we had a reliable ‘Off’ – rewarding with ‘Yes’ followed cheese as soon as her feet were on the floor. I showed the lady how willingly Millie did this when asked once and by then just waiting for her to comply, followed by a food ‘thank you’.

Then Millie came and just happened to sit in the corner beside me. I was waiting for this. I immediately gently said SIT to label what she was already doing and fed her cheese – saying SIT in a very pleased voice and feeding her, loving her, while she remained sitting. Each time she came back and sat I repeated this. It wasn’t long before she realised that just coming and sitting beside me was a lot more rewarding than jumping on me or jumping on the table.

Then towards the end, I had her sitting on cue (when I asked her). I was thrilled. It seems like a small step, but it’s a leap for Milly and for the lady who will continue with this work – starting in Millie’s special ‘sitting corner’ beside the table, speaking to her gently and using food.

The actual problem that has most been distressing the lady is that her black Labrador, Ruby, has had to go and live with her son. Ruby, now three years old, took an instant dislike to the puppy Millie from the moment she arrived. Eventually, at a year old, Millie turned on her. A massive fight ensued so one of the dogs had to go.

The lady pines for Ruby and badly wants her back. There will need to be a very different and much calmer, controlled atmosphere in the house if that is ever to happen.

While Millie is quite so stressed and excitable there is little chance of getting them back together, so reducing her stress levels is our first aim and getting her under some control – particularly self-control. She needs more suitable exercise and fulfilment which we will be looking into next time. We will eventually be working on various protocols with a possible reuniting in neutral territory being the final goal.

Fortunately Ruby is happy living with the son. Millie herself will be a lot happier when she has a bit more healthy stimulation and exercise, and learns what is wanted of her through positive reinforcement.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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).

Young Dalmation is Out of Control

When I say ‘ouYoung Dalmationt of control’, I don’t mean Gizmo needs more ‘being under control’. The six-month-old Dalmatian needs more self-control. This is impossible when he is bored stiff and unfulfilled and when his antics are what gets him the craved-for attention.

I go to so many young dogs and puppies who are simply bouncing of the walls and their busy owners just don’t know what to do with them. When they carried the adorable tiny puppy home they had no concept of the time and effort a puppy needs in order for him to grow to be the family pet they dreamed of.

Gizmo’s owners are a young couple with a toddler and a baby now on the way too. In their small house the lady is finding it very hard to fulfill both her little daughter’s needs and her dog’s. If he is shut out of the room he does damage. He flies all over the chairs and all over people. He digs in the garden and he chews up the carpet. He steals and eats the child’s toys and he has now been through several beds.

It can understandably cause some conflict when the man comes home to a big welcome from the dog but has little concept of how it really is for his partner who is trying to cope all day with a demanding baby and even more demanding dog. She can’t exercise Gizmo because she can’t leave baby alone and because of his ‘wild’ behaviour and pulling she can’t take them together.

Things got so bad for the lady, who also worries how they will cope when the new baby in a few months’ time, that a week ago they advertised Gizmo and sold him. They came home in tears.

They then went and fetched him back again and called me out. They hadn’t realised, despite the problems, just how much they loved him until he wasn’t there.

A common problem is that people are resistant to making the necessary changes even though they are only temporary. Crates and gates clutter up the house. Chew toys and activity boxes can make a big mess. It is simpler to put a chain lead on a dog so it can be controlled through force than to change equipment and put time into training it to walk nicely. I am a firm believer in the saying: ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

We are starting on just three things before I go again next week – three things they should realistically be able to make sYoung Dalmation with Stagbarome headway with so the lady feels a little more encouraged to keep going.

Firstly, they should look for and reward all the good, calm moments including standing still, sitting and lying down – we practised this. Secondly, they must be consistent about Gizmo’s jumping up on people and on the chairs. If they don’t want the dog to do something – then it has to be every time. He also needs to know what it is they do want instead. Thirdly, the poor quality of his diet can only encourage manic behaviour so that needs changing, and with food left down they have nothing left to reward and motivate him with. So, he needs proper meals and proper food.

Next time we will take things further. We will look at ideas for occupying his brain and starting walking work so the lady can eventually take both dog and baby out for walks together safely.

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