Sees Another Dog. Tail up, Freezes, Stares

When he sees another dog from a distance, he freezes, stands tall and his tail goes up. He stares.  If too close, he will rear up on his back legs.

Boycie is huge – a two-year-old Cane Corso weighing over eight stone. Where the man is stronger and not so concerned, the lady owner is petite. She’s a lot lighter than Boycie.

Calm and interested

I found a confident and polite dog. They have worked very hard with the beautiful boy from the start.

Boycie’s attitude towards me was ‘calm and interested’ rather than overly-friendly. This is exactly how they would like him to be with other dogs – when he’s on lead in particular.

Stares and freezes when seeing another dogWhen younger, Boycie used to be enthusiastically friendly when he saw another dog, rushing over to it. Ten stone of muscle charging at them may not be funny for a small dog – or the human. They have worked hard training his recall which is now great so he spends a lot of his time off lead.

His change of attitude towards another dog, when he himself is on lead, has gradually worsened over the past year or so. No particular event they can recall triggered it but are determined for it not to get any worse.

He started also to obsess with constant marking when out and even licking other dogs’ pee. They had him castrated a short while ago which seems to have stopped this, but may not have been helpful where is attitude towards another dog is concerned. (Castration has been proved not to be the universal quick fix for aggression that was previously thought).

Changing how he actually feels about another dog.

Now they have some hard work to do which I know they will approach with the same dedication they did his recall.

They will work on changing how Boycie feels when he spots another dog while he’s trapped beside them on lead. It’s not about ‘stopping’ what he does, but changing the emotion that makes him do it in the first place. Dealing with it at source.

Boycie’s whole attitude is one of not wanting that dog too close. On lead he’s denied that choice of increasing distance if he feels it’s necessary. He has become increasingly reactive.

To work on this there are one or two other things to do at home that may well help. One is taking responsibility for protection duty. This doesn’t mean he shouldn’t bark at all, but that they deal with it in a certain way. If he doesn’t rely upon them to make the decisions regarding safety and protection at home, he’s less likely to do so on walks.

With a dog this size, ‘dominating’ and controlling him isn’t feasible. In this day and age when we know better, it’s also not ethical. Instead, the dog can learn to make his own correct decisions.

The first thing is that he should get as little opportunity as possible to rehearse the behaviour. The more he does it, the more of a habit it becomes.

Trust in his humans

Boycie needs to trust the person holding his lead to make the right decisions when he’s trapped beside them. He is saying ‘Go away’ when he sees another dog because he wants to increase distance. To his mind the dog, for whatever reason, could be a threat. He freezes as soon as he spots it, however distant. He is unmovable. If another dog gets too close, he rears on his back legs to lunge.

Boycie needs to trust them to increase distance to a comfortable point (for him) immediately.  After a while he should realise that he doesn’t have to make so much fuss when he sees another dog. His humans will be attuned to him.

With time, patience and help, they will change the way he feels about other dogs. He will begin to associate them with good things – fun or food. After some weeks of following our plan, he should be able to get close without reacting. He will either ignore the dog completely or engage with his person with instead.

‘Calm and interested’ is our ultimate goal when he sees another dog too.

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 Boycie. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression 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 Help page).

Barks at People but Only at Home

He barks at people coming into his home. He loves people when he’s out.

Border Collie barks at peopleBorder Collie Bud is friendly and relaxed with everyone when out of the house. He likes to say hello.

At home he is a different dog. When someone he doesn’t know comes to the door he barks and gets very agitated.

As he’s not scared of people per se, there has to be a protective, territorial element to this. On and off during the day he’s on look-out duty on the front room window sill, watching for passing people and kids – no doubt believing that his barking is the reason they move on. He’s chasing them off.

Bud may think that when he barks at people coming into the house he can chase them off too.

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Whose job is protection duty, anyway?

A guard dog is unlikely to be a good family pet. Guard duty is the job of the adult humans.

If people are not at home, a worried dog should be somewhere well away from the front of the house. When they are at home they need to help Bud to feel safe. The response of a ‘protector’ would not be to just leave him to bark or else tell him to shut up. I myself thank my dogs, call them to me and reward them for coming away. I may need to investigate.

It’s not surprising that a dog that barks at people going past may well be even more concerned when, from the window, he can see a stranger actually comes into the house.

Bud barks madly when the doorbell goes. If it’s someone he doesn’t know, they will shut him in his crate before letting the person in and he will continue barking at them. When let out, it takes him a while to settle. He has air-snapped at the children and nipped adults a couple of times. If the children have friends they have to go upstairs and keep out of the kitchen.

Barking at people coming to the house is a common problem; sometimes the dog is fearful and sometimes angry that they are invading his territory. He may even be protective like his humans are resources belonging to him. With Bud I feel it’s a mix. He isn’t wary or protective unless people are coming into his house.

Where ‘stranger danger’ is concerned, having had guard duty lifted from him he can learn to associate people coming to the house with something he especially likes. He can be taught to do something incompatible with barking at people. The kids can play the ‘doorbell game’. One rings the bell and another feeds the dog, over and over, until the doorbell now predicts food not danger.

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A Border Collie is a sensitive dog and things can easily become ‘too much’.

Bud’s nipping occurs when things get too exciting or arousing.

There are many ways in which they can cut down on Bud’s stress levels and this should help him to be more tolerant of day-to-day things like people coming to the house and excited children.

They can help him to self-calm rather than stir him up. Chewing is one such way. Unfortunately, he has been doing so much chewing on bones that he has already, at eighteen months of age, worn his teeth down. This proves just how badly he is in need of something to de-stress himself. We looked at various other calming activities that should help him, but his humans not winding him up would help a lot!

The man can cut down on some of the rough and tumble and chase games that men so love and do brain games and hunting games with Bud instead. Not so much fun for the man but much better for the dog.

A child that becomes too excited may end up bad-tempered or in tears. What about a dog?

In every other respect Bud is a brilliant dog. He has been well and lovingly trained. His barking at people coming into the house, however, isn’t a purely a matter of ‘training’. To get him to behave differently when people come to the house, he needs to feel differently about people coming into the house. This also involves feeling he can trust his humans to protect the home.

Bud’s humans will now do all they can to let him know he’s ‘off duty’ and to keep him from becoming unnecessarily stirred up.

 

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 Bud. I don’t go into detail. 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 aggression or fearfulness 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)

Westie Puppy – Just Being a Typical Puppy

Westie puppyPoppy is four and a half months old – and delightful!

She is a feisty puppy – with the usual mad tearing around sessions puppies have, especially in the evening. She has taken to barking persistently for attention, and like many people their response, telling the dog to be quiet and inevitably getting cross, gives her the attention she wants, and she becomes even more hyped up.

This results in Poppy using her teeth. Unfortunately she left her litter mates too young and never learnt proper bite inhibition. If, from the start, the moment they felt teeth they had given a short high squeal just as another puppy would have done, and turned away and blanked her every single time, she would no longer be nipping. Unfortunately loud ‘uh-uh’ and ‘no’ and scolding merely fires her up.

Not only her barking both for attention but also barking at things she hears and sees outside the window is getting worse. If one dog in a group of dogs barks, usually the rest rush over as backup and start to bark also. When the owner shouts at the dog it has the same effect. The poor puppy is already on protection duty, so the owner’s response is key. Would you shout ‘be quiet’ to a child at the window screaming that a man in a balaclave with a machine gun was walking up the path? No. Would you ignore him and let him deal with it himself? No.

For much of the day Poppy is relaxed and as good as gold. By seeing things from her point of view and reacting accordingly, these behaviour as will be nipped in the bud before they develop further.

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