Stubborn or Simply Unmotivated?

They would like their two dogs to be more cooperative, to be less demanding for attention and for English Bulldog Winston, age 3, to stop toileting in the kitchen at night time.

Winston is stubborn

Stubborn English Bulldog

Winston

Or so they feel. For the purpose of my story I will concentrate on Winston as apart from being too excitable, their other dog Dylan, an adorable one year old Pug Jack Russell mix, tends to take his lead from Winston. We can probably make a significant change to Dylan’s excitability by changing away from Bakers Complete dog food. (It’s tasty of course, but who would feed this stuff if they knew what it contains)?

Winston’s taxing behaviours are symptoms of the same thing. I would call it mainly lack of motivation. He’s not being stubborn for the sake of it.

Acting ‘stubborn’ gets results. He is under-stimulated both mentally and physically.

He dislikes his harness being put on. Possibly he’s a little intimidated by how it’s used. Possibly he likes the effort his humans have to make in order to get it on him!

Once the harness is on, he may refuse to go to the door whereupon he is dragged, half-carried by the harness. He is put on a flexilead. Once outside, he may not walk. He will simply stop. Once again he is dragged/carried forward in the hope that he toilets before bedtime.

Why does he do this?

I immediately noticed that the dogs took little notice if they were spoken to or called.

When they call Winston or want him to come or to sit, they repeat it over and over and even then he may ignore them.

How can they motivate Winston to be cooperative?

Food!

I gave him a small bit of food so he knew I might be worth listening to, and then a started to call him over to me. Even when he was lying down he would get up and come to me after just one call. I asked him to sit, once, and waited (trying to stop the family repeating the cue because he wasn’t yet doing anything). He had heard me. Half a minute later Winston sat. I rewarded him.

It was mid evening and already dark. I suggested we rehearsed the bedtime outing to see how stubborn Winston really is.

Because he immediately walks away and lies down when he see the harness, we started there. For now they will still need to approach him, but soon, when he realises that having the harness put on is nice, he will come over when asked I’m sure.

We used grated cheese: the man took harness to him-cheese, put it over his back-cheese, did up one clip-cheese, did up the other clip-cheese.

Now comes the crafty bit! Winston will now expect the whole ritual of trying to get him out to start but we walked away and left him.

We need to abandon that flexilead. This will always make him feel restricted as it has a spring and it’s vital he feels that he has a choice, that he’s free. My lead is 8 feet long. We walked to the door calling him as we passed. He got up and followed us. No stubborn dog yet!

We popped the lead on and walked down the path to the village green opposite. As we walked Winston had praise and, at the man’s side, food.  We walked across the green in the dark. the lead went tight and the man stopped. He patted his leg and called Winston to him. Winston came. Reward.

It’s so important to engage with the dog.

The man asked ‘what do I do if I want to turn around?’. I took the lead, walked away from Winston to the end of the eight feet but keeping it loose still and then called him, sounding exciting. I fed him and praised him and made it fun to be with me. Simple!

We had a lovely short walk. If walks are like this every time, Winston won’t be stubborn for long!

What should the man do if Winston still goes on strike and refuses to move? Call his bluff. If one invitation to move is refused, turn around and go home. No walk for now. Try again later.

One reason the evening walk in particular is so important is Winston’s frequent toileting in the kitchen, both pee and poo. They leave a pad on the floor and he always aims for that which makes me feel he’s not marking and that he simply needs to go. There is no evidence of anxiety of any sort.

I know he is a Bulldog with a Bulldog’s body, but to my mind (and looking at Winston’s ‘waist’), I feel he is fed too much. They will cut down, bearing in mind the rewards he now will be eating. They will also try him on another food. The better the food, the less waste will pass through the dog.

Dylan lying at my feet

Dylan lying at my feet

He may refuse to walk, but he constantly demands attention in various infuriating ways, mostly when the lady has her attention on the baby! He is a bored dog. He’s also a clever dog. They do their best, having a dog walker twice a day but because of his being ‘stubborn’ he is usually left at home and Dylan is taken by himself.

The only exercise Winston gets apart from irregular walks that start by car and which he loves, is spasmodic high-energy football out in the garden with the son which isn’t the right sort of thing for a Bulldog at all.

He needs more brain work, more sniffing, more exploring – and motivation.

I’m sure he will soon be joining Dylan for the two daily walks with the dog walker. The family will do less over-arousing stuff and give him more breed appropriate activities and brain stimulation. They will be working hard on teaching him to come immediately when he’s called.

Life should be a lot better for everyone, particularly the lady who, trying to care for a young baby, has found herself spending time upstairs during the day in order to escape from two demanding dogs.

At the end of our three months together: “Both dogs are much better and we’ve come a long way in our ability to train and work with them. We’ve not had a single kitchen accident from Winston since seeing you, the walking is much better and so is the barking. Evenings are also quieter.”
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 Winston and Dylan. 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. 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)

Human Control v. Self Control

Pug Jack Russell cross stressed and pantingBecause Pug-Jack Russell mix Freddie wasn’t being ‘controlled’, he was all over the place. He was waiting to be told what to do – or more what not to do. Like so many people, they do their best to control his behaviour by using NO and constant commands like ‘Get Down’, so Freddie is seldom left to work things out for himself and it’s not surprising that he lacks self control.

This isn’t to suggest for one minute that he’s not well treated – he is adored by the whole family who do the best they know how. The bottom line is, though, that if what they currently do worked they wouldn’t need help, so they need to be doing something different.

Freddie is more Pug than Jack Russell

Freddie is more Pug than Jack Russell

While I was there Freddie did all sorts of things ‘he never does anymore’, like jumping up behind me on the sofa and humping my arm, chewing my ear and grabbing and pulling at my sleeve.

I allowed this to happen to show them how to teach Freddie the behaviour that we do want, not because I feel these are in any way desirable behaviours. I needed him to do the unwanted behaviour so I could show him that it got no reaction or attention whatsoever and to show him how much more rewarding it is when he’s not doing it! I used clicker for marking every moment his behaviour was even momentarily what we wanted and both Freddie and the three family members caught on really fast. We can look at teaching him alternative acceptable behaviours when he’s in a calmer state.

He has an almost OCD ritual when he goes out into the garden – he is frequently asking to go out. He flies up at the door handle until it’s opened, then he spins, barking, just outside the door, followed by running a barking circuit of the garden. Then he may either toilet or want to come in again.

Teaching two-year-old Freddie self control and self calm is going to take time and stress reduction is the priority. All evening he was pacing, panting, drinking, asking to gWhat a long tongueo out, barking at TV when it was on briefly, humping me or grabbing my clothes and back to pacing, and so on. Not getting his usual responses was very hard on him so the behaviour intensified. He only settled briefly twice – and we made sure we marked and rewarded those moments whilst not setting him off again.

His high stress levels are at the root of all the things they want to eliminate, his barking at TV, his reactivity to people and dogs on walks, his fear of traffic, his jumping up and so on. Telling him off for barking or sending him to his bed doesn’t help him at all.

He needs to be allowed to work out for himself what works and what doesn’t. Already the 16-year-old lad who is very involved with the little dog has shown him that the door opens when he’s not jumping at the handle – simply by waiting until he’s sitting, saying ‘yes’ immediately and quickly opening the door. He then accompanied the dog out – walked Freddie well away from the door, thus breaking the sequence of his spinning ritual.

Freddie’s reactivity is inconsistent – the main variable being, I’m sure, his stress levels at the current time. In the mornings he is a lot calmer both at home and on his walk, having had the night for the stresses of the previous day to subside a bit. As the day wears on, things simply build up. Only when the whole family finally settles will he, too, settle – so long as there’s nothing to bark at on TV.

The ultimate goal is for FFreddiepug3reddie to live happily with the daughter’s dog when the two families move in together. Introducing the two dogs will need to be done very carefully and only after Freddie has made considerable headway.

Five days have gone by and the family is really pulling together. They have a long way to go, but today’s news is really encouraging and they have been doing their best to keep Freddie as calm as possible. They sent me this lovely photo and message: ‘Freddie chilled with me TV quite noisy, he’s had a lot of praise today’.
Two weeks later:  ‘I am curious that over the last few days Freddie has started to sniff and stop more when we are walking,walking along sniffing the floor not pulling.I am taking this to mean he is less agitated and therefore more curious about his surroundings.This morning I chose to walk along by the road away from the path on the grass about 10ft from road.He was sniffing and searching.This totally distracted him from the passing cars,I also praised him for this and gave him chicken. He alerted to one dog although I turned around and he was fine’.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Freddie, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV 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).