Jasper is a large Springer Spaniel, seven years of age.
His coat is dull and matted and he has big knots behind under his ears, almost as big as the ears themselves.
Jasper is a large Springer Spaniel, seven years of age.
His coat is dull and matted and he has big knots behind under his ears, almost as big as the ears themselves.
Being pulled down the road by two little dogs, one screaming and one barking in sympathy, is no joke.
Mollie and her sibling sister Maggie are absolutely adorable little Miniature Schnauzers, six months of age.
They have very few of the usual puppy problems that I go to. They don’t nip, they ask to go outside to toilet and they sleep peacefully when left alone at home – which isn’t ever for very long.
Although there can be disadvantages in bringing up siblings, a big plus is that they always have a playmate. They have a great outlet for their energy.
Maggie and Mollie have their own funny little ways! At night, when going out for the last time, they now go out separately. Unsurprisingly, if taken together they start to play and won’t come in!
The first dog to be left indoors cries and, though the other one comes in willingly, the second one out then won’t come back in! This is the same whichever order they go out in.
The couple can manage the ‘coming in’ while they work on good recall by using a Flexilead in the garden (the only good use for one of those).
Crying when parted is at the heart of what we will be dealing with. The couple will work on treating the two little girls as individuals so they can be happy to be apart for short periods of time.
This is particularly necessary for walking them.
Little Maggie is screaming as soon as she’s out of the door, pulling madly as she goes. She’s barking and screaming at any dog or person she sees and Mollie, who is generally a lot more confident, then joins in the noise.
The lady and gentleman want enjoyable walks, not being pulled down the road by screaming, barking puppies! The pups are now six months old and things won’t improve unless done differently.
Walks for now should be with one dog at a time only. Treating them as individuals will also help to avoid any trouble between the two girls when they mature. Already Mollie is a bit controlling of Maggie and tends to redirect onto her when they are aroused by something like a person coming to the door. She may also object if Maggie is being fussed.
They will shut Mollie in the sitting room with a stuffed Kong for a few minutes, whilst working in the kitchen, bit by bit, at getting Maggie to love her harness (both dogs are wary of the harnesses being put on).
Then they will swap the dogs around, working on Mollie in the kitchen whilst Maggie has a Kong in the sitting room. The more times they can do this in a day the faster the dogs will get used to it. They will stick to working with the dogs in the same order so they know exactly what to expect and that they will get their turn.
Bit by bit they can work towards walking out of the back door and into the garden with a quiet puppy. The dog with the Kong alone in the sitting room should be more settled by now. No crying, whining or screaming.
If Maggie starts screaming in the garden they will bring her straight back in. While she is walking nicely, they will feed her.
When ready, the little dog will be taken in and out of the garden gate – Mollie will get to this stage well before Maggie I’m sure.
They can then stand still just outside the gate for a few minutes while each puppy can smell, hear and watch the outside world. Then come back in again. Any screaming will result in turning around straight away.
When this stage is achieved, the next step is to start walking further away from the house.
If she does, they need to take things back a step or two with her and take it even more gradually.
Getting to this stage where the dogs can be walked separately and quietly just outside the house, on loose leads one at a time, is a major milestone.
We will then work out what to do next in order to take things forward so that eventually both little dogs can enjoy a quiet walk down the road together on loose leads.
Fortunately they have a nice garden and get plenty of exercise. For outings, the couple may try popping them in the car, taking them somewhere open and letting them free on long lines. Any screaming and this will be abandoned.
I totally fell in love with scruffy ten-month-old Jack Russell mix Max yesterday. I had the perfect evening with him and his humans.
It began with just me and the daughter who is in her late teens. Then mum arrived followed by two male school friends of the girl’s and later a man – all people closely involved in the dog’s life. Lucky little dog!
As each person joined us I was working with Max. He had jumped up at me in a madly friendly fashion as I walked in the door and I immediately showed him that this didn’t work with me if it was my attention he wanted. More importantly, I concentrated on showing him what did work.
As more people arrived and as I worked with him, instead of jumping up at them, becoming increasingly excited and silly as would normally be the case, he was becoming more and more settled.
When finally the man joined us, he said Max must be another dog.
It won’t take much of this to build up a new habit when people arrive, so long as everyone is consistent. They have a lot of people coming and going so training the humans is the main problem here!
All I did was to consistently reinforce the behaviour I wanted. As you can see from the photo, Max became FOCUSED! He was sitting looking up at me as we all chatted. From time to time I reinforced the continued calm behaviour with Yes or a click and the tiniest bit of food.
Now he can develop a new habit, that of sitting at someone’s feet looking adorable in order to get his attention fix!
I then tried him on an antler chew. Chewing is such a great and natural way for a dog to relieve stress and to occupy himself. Max worked away at it for maybe an hour after which he simply lay down and settled.
Just like so many dogs I go to, Max generates nearly all his own attention with tactics like constantly asking to be let out and then back in again, jumping up behind people, mouthing, digging the sofa – anything he can think of.
If instead his humans initiate frequent short activities that he finds rewarding and that exercise his brain, he will no longer be driven into goading them for the attention and action he craves.
The small dog has fantastic humans in his life who have put time and effort into teaching him training tricks. Now they need to incorporate work on keeping him a bit calmer and making the desirable habits the rewarding ones.
Here are a few examples where his bad habit can be changed into a good habit.
Before bed and before they go to work, like so many dogs Max will refuse to come in from the garden. With a bit of management by way of a long lead so he can no longer rehearse the behaviour and food so that he’s motivated, this habit can soon be changed to him running in as soon as they call him.
While they eat their dinner, he has a habit of sitting on the back of the sofa behind them and trying to get their food! This habit can be changed with a mix of management and training. So he can no longer rehearse this behaviour he can be put somewhere else while they eat. He can then be taught a much better habit instead.
Whenever he sees a person out on a walk he will jump up at them. This habit can be changed through a mix of management and teaching him something better that earns him fuss.
Even pulling on lead is a habit. He is forced to walk beside them and the short lead is tight so that pulling against it is constantly rehearsed on every daily walk. A new habit can be established using management – better equipment – and a loose leash that is repeatedly reinforced by earning him forward progress along with plenty of encouragement, attention and reward.
Near the end of our session yesterday I put one of my Perfect Fit harnesses on Max and attached a training lead. Within a few minutes the now calm Max was walking beautifully for me and then for the daughter outside the front of the house.
Already a new and much better walking habit has been born.
It was quite touching how he was with me by the time I was ready to leave and we had removed the harness. He lay beside me, his head on my foot. What had I done to him?
We had a mutual understanding. Max felt quietly understood.
A short story about two nine-month-old Labrador sisters. They are bouncy, enthusiastic and friendly, perfect given their breed and their age.
The main problems are jumping up at people and pulling on lead. Walks are causing the gentleman considerable stress. For reasons not relevant here, he only took over walking them a week or so ago. Continue reading…
Hector’s frantic pulling on walks seemed hard to imagine when meeting him in the house.
He’s a sweet and sensitive dog, apart from what they say is excessive jumping up at people who come to the house. He wasn’t too bad with me because I kept him calm.
Hector’s lack of self-control both when people come into the house and the frantic pulling on walks are due to much the same things. Over-arousal and I, believe, some anxiety too. As he now gets no exercise he must have an excess of energy and no outlet for other stresses.
If the visiting people can be persuaded to act differently, so will Hector.
The main problem with Hector’s life is walks – or lack of walks.
His walks had become a total nightmare, both for Hector and for his humans. To try to stop the frantic pulling they use a Halti. Between straining, frantic pulling, panting and gasping, he desperately tries to scrape the thing off on the ground.
They used to walk him on the same circuit. He shot out of the front door and the frantic pulling began. Then he pulled all the way, like he was on a mission, until they got back home again. He would not stop even once for a sniff.
The man who did most of the walking, became increasingly frustrated and angry.
Walks had become a battle.
One can imagine how Hector might react if he spied another dog! Added to lunging he would rear up on his back legs, making a choking sound. The man would struggle to hold him.
Because Hector doesn’t get walks anyway, they can strip things back to the beginning. He has nothing to lose.
Even standing at the open front door will be a bonus.
Walks will be broken down into small stages. They will keep working on each little step until it is mastered before going on to the next.
The Halti won’t be needed. They will get a comfortable harness that attaches both front and top – a Perfect Fit. They will ditch the flexilead and use a double-ended training lead, at least six feet long.
Hector will be introduced to two new concepts on walks – freedom and choice.
Work will start with his simply wearing the harness around the house – not associating it with a walk at all. Next, when he’s calm, the lead can be popped on with no fuss.
They will stand at the closed door. Hector won’t walk calmly on a loose lead if he can’t even stand still on a loose lead!
Steps to loose lead walking, no more frantic pulling, will move on to simply standing by the open front door and doing nothing. They will hang on and wait for the lead to slacken just a moment (as it will eventually) – then CLICK and feed something small and special.
(Some people tell me they bought a clicker but it doesn’t work. A clicker is nothing in itself. It’s how the clicker is used).
So Hector will now be learning that standing still, by the open front door on a loose lead is rewarding.
Next they can step outside and he can find that standing on the garden path on a loose lead is rewarding.
Opposite the house is a small grass area. They can then go and work the same magic there.
This could possibly take weeks but the more short sessions they can fit in the better. Currently anything outside the house is over-stimulating due to lack of acclimatisation. Because Hector sees so few now, people and dogs are a major event.
Gradually they can walk a little way – but no more straight lines. No more predictable A to B. Hector will now start to enjoy his walk. It’s about information – smells and sounds. It should be about the journey, not the destination.
Hector will no longer expect to ‘get somewhere’. Frantic pulling will be unnecessary. If they use encouragement, both dog and humans will begin to enjoy the walk for its own sake.
They can follow Hector sometimes – so long as the lead is slack. He can choose where he goes.
A special bonus will be going somewhere open and popping a long line on the back of the harness. Some freedom!
With loose lead walking under way and without the over-excitement and anxiety, they can work on what to do when he spots another dog. Very likely, due to his improved mental state, he will be less reactive.
They should make some really good progress if they take their time and are sufficiently patient.
So much change. The four dogs of interesting mixed breeds were flown over here from South African only two weeks ago and everything is different.
They have generally settled in really well to their new home.
The older two dogs have had previous experience of training, walks and probably traffic. They came from a rescue.
The two younger dogs have lived with the family since they were very young puppies.
Six-year-old Dobby, a cute Pekenese mix, was given to them at six weeks old. Bella, the youngest at fourteen months, was found on the street corner at just three weeks old. Some of her current behaviour is probably due to lack of the beneficial contact with her mother along with what she should have learnt from her siblings.
My client describes Bella as a typical African dog. She’s probably a mix of all sorts of things but looks quite like my little working Labrador in size and shape.
Previously they lived in a big house with a huge enclosed garden. Nobody came knocking on the door but a bell was rung from a distant gate.
Free also to bark at anyone coming too close to their property. There was a lot of action and background noise about the place.
Now they live in a very nice but much smaller house over here. Everything is very quiet. The garden is not big and they are surrounded by neighbours who won’t appreciate barking.
The change from plenty of background noise to quiet means that any sounds tend to be sudden – and something to bark at.
There are two main issues for the family. The first is the noisy and alarmed way the dogs react to anyone knocking on the door and coming into the house. The other is the difficulty in walking the dogs together.
Never before have they had someone knocking on their door. It’s easy to understand how dogs don’t like this sudden banging.
When I arrived we had set it up that I would text outside the door, the dogs would be put out of the way, and only let out to join us when I was sitting in the kitchen. This worked a treat and there was no barking at all. Little Dobby would usually growl and bark at a person for about half and hour. There was one quiet growl and he was taking food from my hand.
This, then, is how I suggest they manage the ‘caller’ situation to start with.
They can get a doorbell which is less alarming I feel than sudden loud knocks. Over time they can systematically work on getting the dogs not to react to the bell. It can be the trigger for the dogs to go into another room, out of the way. A wireless doorbell with two push-buttons is ideal for working with frequent bell-rings. Success will depend upon many repetitions.
Then there will be less chaos when deliveries come.
All dogs were fine with my walking about but went mental when, having gone upstairs, I began to come down again. They have never had stairs before – another change. The way we set up my arrival worked very well. We need to work out something similar for when a person goes upstairs.
They bark also when a male family member comes downstairs, so I suggest for now the man sits on the top stair, calls the dogs up to him and they then can walk down together.
So the ‘manage callers’ part of their aims will be a mix of physically managing the situation along with systematically getting them used to the sound of a doorbell and also feeling good when they hear it.
The ‘walking dogs’ part of their aims boils down to working with the two younger dogs individually until they are less reactive to other dogs and people. When aroused on walks and together, Bella will redirect onto Dobby. These two aren’t used to leads and probably not accustomed to much tarmac and paving, or traffic. The older two are fine.
Bella and Dobby have separate walking plans.
Bella pulls like mad and is very reactive to any dog she sees, even at a distance but is okay with people.
Dobby is hysterical with excitement before even leaving the house. He also pulls and the outside world experience sounds like it’s just too much for him. Whilst he’s okay with other dogs he freaks out when a person walks towards them.
Bella and Dobby, in time, can then be gradually integrated one at a time with the older two, then walked together as a pair, before trying to walk them all together. How quickly they achieve this will depend upon how much time they have to work on it.
Because the dogs have only been over here with them for just a couple of weeks, their behaviour may well change further as they adapt to their new environment over the next month or two.
The dogs are doing really well despite the huge upheaval and change. I’m sure this is because the family of four all work so well together on their dogs’ behalf.
He’s adorable and he is adored!
Rudi, 7, and has lived with the couple in their cottage in the country for eighteen months. What a lovely life he now has, with a big garden and the little two-year-old nephew the lady looks after. The two are inseparable.
Far too many dogs, like the little dog whose story I posted yesterday evening, are scared and reactive to other dogs. The fact my post has already received 418 views in half a day shows how big an issue this is.
Those dogs already wary undoubtedly will have ‘victim’ somehow written on them for other dogs to read. Some dogs may just be ‘different’ in some way. In human terms we often hear of people who are a bit different being victimised or bullied. It could be to do with signals the walker is giving out also.
Enthusiastic Cocker Rudi is completely confident. He gets on well with all dogs. If a dog shows aggression towards him he ignores it, continuing to do his own thing which is being busy, spaniel-style. Nothing fazes him.
Where they do have trouble however is with his constant restlessness. At home he jumps up and may send a cup of tea flying. He pulls so much on lead that the lady can’t walk him.
A while ago someone advised a Gencon head halter, so he’s now walked on a shortish lead with pulling almost impossible. He hates it. They were even advised to tire him out with ball play in the garden before setting off. All this does is to fire him up further. Neither of these things address the actual problem. Frustration.
He’s seldom able to be let off lead because when he sees a pheasant or Muntjack, there are lots where he lives, he’s off.
Just imagine how frustrated this busy dog must feel, walking in the open countryside on an uncomfortable head halter and short lead. He just can’t get to all those things his instinct is screaming at him to do. He has a strong need to run around and sniff when he’s out – he’s a Spaniel! He also has a need to chase and fetch things – he’s run run back with a live crow in the past.
They will get him a Perfect Fit harness and teach him loose leash walking. The lead doesn’t have to be short unless they are near the road. Why not a long line – 30 or 40 foot long – on the back of his new harness? His walker can soon learn not to become tangled up and to be a human flexilead.
The enthusiastic Cocker Spaniel can now have comfort on walks. He can have a degree of freedom to do Spaniel things. On the long line for safety, he can be taught to ‘chase’ a ball or food in the opposite direction to the pheasant or Muntjack. This can redirect his drive to chase onto something acceptable rather than suppress it. They can work hard at his recall.
I am sure that with this frustration out of the equation Rudi will be able to settle a bit more easily. He should be a little less excited at the prospect of action – any action (something wired into Cockers as I know from my own working Cocker Spaniel, Pickle!). With some work to teach him a better alternative, his jumping-up should be much more easily addressed.
Sally and Pepper are two adorable and friendly Shih Tzus, ages five and eighteen months respectively.
They came from different breeders and this is reflected in their general confidence and sociability to other dogs. Sally is quite happy carrying her ball and playing games when out. Pepper, on the other hand, is on permanent alert to sounds….and to dogs.
Pepper left his mother and litter a bit early and hadn’t been well cared for, very different to Sally’s start in life.
Walks can be difficult for the young lady in particular. She’s actually scared now when walking little Pepper. When held back from attacking another dog, he has redirected his frustration onto her three times now, resulting in bites.
It’s easy to assume that this is just something to do with ‘training’ out on walks.
I see it as part of a much bigger picture that if they first get all the groundwork in place at home and understand how to approach the ‘other dog’ problem by seeing things through Pepper’s eyes, things should dramatically improve.
Pepper will then have no need for frustration.
There are two dogs living next door with just a wall between the houses, one dog in particular is very noisy.
Their barking is heard intermittently throughout the day, upon which the younger Shih Tzu, Pepper, will immediately react and run around the house barking ineffectually, trying to get to the barking dog the other side of the wall.
Imagine his frustration at failing every time. This may happen many times a day.
Cheeky Sally, too, may give one bark to set him off!
Worse, a while ago these two male dogs would regularly ‘fence-fight’ the Shih Tzus with much snarling and leaping at the fence from both sides. The larger dog had knocked down the old fence and his leaping at the new fence has already exposed gaps at the bottom.
Whenever Pepper is out in his garden he’s on high alert. Even from the kitchen French window he can hear the dogs the other side of the fence; this is the room is where they leave Sally and Pepper when they go out.
Bouts of frustration will be recurring throughout the day.
So, it’s against this background at home that makes Pepper’s behaviour out on walks all the more understandable.
Helping him needs to be approached from three angles.
The first is management in order to make Pepper’s environment as helpful as possible – like gating him away from the back window and only letting him out on a lead.
The second is to get Pepper to feel differently so that he no longer feels he needs to bark through the wall and protect himself outside in his garden. This can only be done by desensitising and counter-conditioning.
We made a start, as you can see from the picture. I took the photo when both dogs were sitting in front of me while barking went on from next door.
Changing the emotions that drive him to being so reactive to other dogs also involves reducing Pepper’s stress levels in general so that he becomes a calmer dog.
When he’s no longer reacting to the barking through the wall, they can move on to working in the garden. With time and effort they should have him ignoring the dog behind the fence. Without Pepper retaliating, the next door dog will be quieter.
How his humans behave when out on walks and another dog appears is crucial.
At present they hold Pepper tight as they advance on the dog – they may pick him up – and all he wants to do is to get at it. He lunges, snarls and, to quote, ‘barks ballistically’.
At proximity he will never learn to feel differently. It’s how he’s feeling that is driving how he’s behaving.
Avoiding dogs altogether will get them nowhere, though I do suggest a couple of dog-free weeks to build upon. Why?
Then, as with the dogs next door, it’s slow, patient work that is required so he is never pushed beyond his comfort threshold and eventually comes to feel differently about them.
Thirdly, after management and working on changing how Pepper feels, comes teaching him actions that are incompatible with the unwanted behaviour (like ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘stay’ and so on) or removing himself from trouble if the neighbour’s dog is in their garden.
Within a few minutes yesterday, using appropriate harness and lead, they were walking a much calmer dog on a loose lead down the road. Pulling against a tight lead causing discomfort to the neck from a collar is not conducive of a relaxed walk. When he lunges at a dog it will hurt his delicate little neck.
He will be taken to what he considers is a safe distance. If they watch him he, he will let them know where this distance is.
At this distance the work they will have been doing with the dog next door can be replicated out on the walk.
In all areas of Pepper’s life they will do their best to keep his arousal levels down. Stress and frustration go hand in hand. Being on constant alert also means he could well be sleep-deprived, which will not be helping his stress levels either.
The ‘stress circle’: barking creates stress and stress creates barking! Stress creates more reactivity to other dogs and reactivity to other dogs creates more stress…. and so on.
I went to a delightful elderly Staffie yesterday, twelve-year-old Barney. I was told that his jumping up was a big problem, particularly for the little grandchildren, and that his pulling on lead was so bad he’d not been walked for nearly two years and that he had now started to destroy the house when they were out.
Prepared, I left my equipment bag in the hallway, safely away from being raided, just bringing with me my notes, treats, pen and mobile. I need not have worried.
Barney was in the living room, sitting at the man’s feet. He hadn’t heard me! So – obviously he’s a bit deaf.
When he did notice me he came over, very friendly, but no jumping up. The elderly dog was more interested in sniffing a day in the life of my own dogs on my clothes.
As so often happens, he had been particularly good in the days since they had booked their appointment. It’s like he knew! I believe that owners, perhaps subconsciously, examine their own behaviour a bit more carefully in preparation for a visit and without having received any advice, the behaviour work is already beginning to take effect!
The two little children and the elderly dog get on beautifully once he has calmed down.
There is a history of family members coming in and making a huge fuss of Barney. One young man particularly fires him up with fuss and play. To quote the lady, ‘Barney doesn’t know when to stop’.
Of course he doesn’t. If this were a child he would be in tears by now or else in hysterics or having a tantrum. It will probably take him hours to properly calm down. I know I am a spoilsport but this has to stop if they want to achieve their goals.
If Barney jumps up on adults, family and visitors, then he will jump around the little children too.
Telling him to get down and pushing him whilst at other times playing or fussing him when his feet are on them, teaches him exactly what they don’t want. He will now learning that that feet on the floor works best.
This is the first ‘old trick’ that elderly dog Barney can unlearn. He has, in effect, been taught to jump up.
Everything became harder for Barney when their other elderly dog, another Staff, died a couple of years ago.
He used to get uncontrollably excited even when the drawer containing lead and harness was opened. By the time he was launching himself out of the front door he was so aroused that he was beside himself. His pulling was so severe that the lady said it simply hurt her and with his lunging at any dog he saw, walks became a nightmare. They gave up.
They had taught him the ‘old trick’ of getting excited when going to the drawer by letting him know that a walk would follow. He may even have believed that his manic behaviour was causing the walk. Now they will open and shut the drawer countless times until it’s no big deal. The same process will be used for lifting the lead and harness and then putting them on.
Having not been out on a walk for eighteen months they can have a fresh start.
Barney walked beautifully on a loose lead around the house with me and then with the lady. He needs the right equipment so that he has nothing to pull against and he needs encouragement and praise.
In the past pulling has still resulted in forward-progress, so this is another old trick that can be learnt even by an elderly dog.
When Barney does eventually get to go out, in his new state of mind he will be able to cope a lot better with the appearance of another dog. No longer will the man force him forward, holding him tight – maybe even picking him up. They will increase distance and start to get him feeling good about dogs so long as they are not too close for comfort. Each dog is an individual and Barney has his own things that will help with this which I shan’t share here.
With help he can ‘unlearn’ reactivity to other dogs also. Knowing that he’s not expected to make friends or get too close to them if he doesn’t want to even if they have to go another route, the elderly dog can relax and they can all start to enjoy walks together.
They will change his diet away from Bakers Complete – known to have an adverse effect on the behaviour of dogs.
At home they will train him to the whistle in order to compensate for his reduced hearing. Eventually the elderly dog may even be able to go off lead – or at least on a very long line – and enjoy some freedom to sniff, relax and do doggy things.
The lovely family’s elderly dog will have a new lease of life!
I sat with the family – parents with late-teens son and daughter – and their dear little Tibetan Terrier, Archie.
My first question was, as always, ‘What would you like to achieve from my help?’ The answer was for Archie to be more relaxed around other dogs and to be trusted to come back when called.
Exactly the same aim as so many people I go to.
This sounds simple and straightforward but it isn’t. It’s unlikely to be just a question of going out on a few walks with someone. For a dog to be relaxed around other dogs he must feel safe and this has a lot to do with his relationship with his humans.
Poor Archie was attacked by two dogs a couple of months which has not only upset Archie but it’s really shaken the lady who had him at the time.
In order to feel safe the dog should not feel trapped and helpless on the end of a tight lead, particularly one attached uncomfortably to a collar, held by someone he may not completely trust to keep him safe (in his mind). In order not to feel trapped he should learn to walk in a more relaxed fashion on a loose lead. In order to walk on a loose lead he should no longer expect to make progress when the lead is tight; in order to walk on a loose lead he shouldn’t be too excited before starting out. In order to trust his humans when out, they themselves need to be confident; they need to show him who protects him and motivates him back at home.
In order for him to come when called when off lead, he must take notice of them at home and reliably come when called around the house and in from the garden etc. etc. Each family member must be consistent.
It’s anything but simple.
It’s great to go to a family where all four members pull together with a walking rota. Archie gets two walks a day.
For a plan to work, each walker must have the same walking system. Each needs to wait for calm before leaving. Each needs to use the same technique for teaching loose lead walking. Each needs to react in exactly the same way when Archie sees a dog – he alerts, he may pull and then he drops down flat. It’s vital none of them use force.
Each should give Archie their full attention for that twenty minutes and not be occupied with something else like a phone.
Walks will occupy the same amount of time as before but no longer go from A to B. It will be about the journey, not the destination. So what if the dog wants to sniff for five minutes? Whose walk is it? A dog that is pulling with a walker who is in a rush is bound to be reactive to things. A dog having a relaxed sniff walk on a loose lead with someone who is relaxed is much more likely to walk past other dogs without a reaction.
It was fun to see the family begin to see why Archie actually does things – what functions his actions have for him. Why does he jump up? It gets him the attention he wants. Why does he run off with a sock? It starts a game. Why does he pull on lead? It gets him somewhere. Why does he bark at people who walk past? It chases them away. Why does he keep scratching at the door? It makes someone get up.
He can learn that something they prefer will give him the same result. Sitting and not jumping will get attention. Stealing a sock gets ignored but a toy may start a game. Pulling on lead will get him nowhere, but a loose lead will. Scratching the door doesn’t get him let out, but sitting politely may and so on.
Why does Archie sometimes get cross when made to go out at night? Because gentle force is used and there is nothing in it for him. He will happily do as asked when they work on his ‘coming when called’ routine at home, using food.
Getting him to earn some of some of his food (and that doesn’t mean commercial rubbish treats or anything large that fills him up, but tiny bits of real food) is a recipe for a motivated and happy dog.
This brings us back to his mild reactivity to some dogs when out on walks. Whatever he is doing, whether it is dropping down, pulling to the dog or barking at it, he does it because it has a function for him, probably that of keeping the dog at a greater distance – or giving himself some control at the very least, particularly if he’s being held close on a tight lead.
What if he was given something more acceptable to do that provided the same function? Turning to look at the handler for instance? Or perhaps standing still and not lying down? Or looking away from the other dog and down at the ground to forage for food? The handler should be sufficiently on the ball to sense the distance t which Archie has clocked the dog but isn’t yet reacting.
Archie would learn that the alternative behaviour would be grant him his wish, that of increasing distance, whilst associating the other dog with something positive and nice.
Another reason they should be alert is that sometimes Archie, depending upon his mood and upon the dog, may ignore it and walk past. Other times he may want to play. The response has to be appropriate to the occasion and well-timed, and this takes practice.
I would err on the safe side in favour of too much distance rather than too little.
Sadly, when your dog has been attacked and injured by another dog that has just appeared, off-lead, out of the blue, walks may never be quite so enjoyable again.