Frantic Barking. Littermates. Not Prepared For Real Life.

I walked in the door to be met with frantic barking.

Brave Luna, with frantic barking, came right up to me. Her sister backed her up but with less enthusiasm.

Frantic barking at people and sounds

Luna

Luna and Bear are same-sex siblings. They are two-year-old Cavapoo Collies. What a mix! They were a bit smaller than I expected.

Walks are a nightmare due to the dogs’ reactivity to everything, their frantic barking and pulling. Consequently, the family don’t walk them regularly.

Their frantic barking at every sound when at home is annoying the neighbours. The lady has tried all sorts of things to stop the barking, some not pleasant for the dogs. None worked. Continue reading…

Working dog with no employment.

Bonnie is a working dog without a job.

She is a thirteen-month-old beautiful fox red Labrador.

I always ask my clients what their aim in having me would be if I had a magic wand. Which of course I don’t!

Bonnie’s owners said simply, ‘Happy walks with a happy dog’.

Working dog gun dogOne would think that Bonnie had everything in life a dog could ask for. However, the most important thing, apart from food and keeping safe, is missing.

A job. Continue reading…

Other Dogs. Walks. Pulling on Lead. Canicross

 

They had two German Shorthaired Pointers, Douglas and Gracie with which the couple did Canicross. Sadly, Gracie developed cancer, had to have a leg amputated and can no longer run.

Four months ago they adopted two-year-old Louie.

They want to run with him also, but his reactivity to certain other dogs makes it difficult.

Outings fall into two categories.

There are general daily walks and there is Canicross which they do several times a week.

The downside of Canicross is the level of arousal that is built up – putting Louie in the wrong state of mind for being non-reactive around other dogs.

Canicross and reactivity to other dogs

Douglas and Louie

There are conflicting things involved.

Arousal and excitement seem to be part of Canicross.

But for learning to chill around other dogs, over-arousal is counter-productive.

For Canicross in a group, Louie will be close to other dogs.

For working with his being at ease near other dogs, distance is necessary.

For Canicross Louie needs to learn to pull – with a special harness.

But for walking in a relaxed fashion, enjoying the walk for it’s own sake, pulling and excitement are counter-productive.

One seldom sees calm dogs on a loose lead, sniffing, peeing and generally enjoying the walk and ‘clocking in’ with their owner being reactive when they see another dog.

Calm everyday walks; Canicross something different.

We will aim at using everyday loose-lead walks as a kind of antidote to Canicross where they are trying to get Louie to pull.

At present walks are about trying to stop him pulling by using a head halter and then walking somewhere in a determined manner for the sake of exercise. These walks will now be as stress-free, calm and comfortable as possible.

I would abandon the head halter and use a harness, but not of the Canicross type. The lead can hook onto the front. This will then feel completely different to the Canicross pulling harness.

What is a dog walk anyway?

Instead of trying to get somewhere, they can wander. The dogs use up so much energy with the running several times a week that walks need not be about exercise. They can give Louie full length of the training lead and let him stop whenever he likes. With the lead hooked on the chest he will be less inclined to pull. He will learn the difference.

The walk is about the journey, not the destination. If they have forty-five minutes, then they can fill that with something different each day and simply see what crops up.

Against this background, dealing with his reactivity to certain other dogs will be a lot easier. He should not be feeling restricted on tight lead and head halter when he sees another dog. They can associate dogs with good stuff – food and fun. They will make sure he doesn’t get any nearer than he’s comfortable with.

At present they are mainly avoiding other dogs on walks which will get them nowhere. In contrast, they then run with a group of dogs and this is too much. Louie may ignore the dogs when fired up with running and some he may for a while run shoulder-to-shoulder with. However, he may suddenly snap at them and bark at others.

Building up to Canicross in a group.

It’s not realistic to suggest they no longer do Canicross with Louie. However, they will go running with him alone to start with, then with a couple of dogs he gets along with and gradually build it up from there.

There is preparation work to be done at home. Two terriers live next door and they are enemies the other side of the fence. Louie patrols the garden, waiting for them to come out. While he’s rehearsing aggressive behaviour towards other dogs at home, they will make less progress when out. Working on his reactivity towards these dogs will be a good place to start.

The couple themselves need to be as relevant as they can so the dogs enjoy walking with them. Only this way they will get and hold Louie’s attention when needed.

I have never done Canicross myself (now there’s a surprise) but it seems a great thing for humans and suitable athletic dogs to do together. It’s a sport that humans have chosen.

It seems to me only fair that human and dog bond doing something that is more natural to the dog too – something the dog has chosen.

Here is a study where exercise was significantly reduced and the resulting positive effect on reactivity. Adding this to Louie’s life will hopefully counterbalance the general arousal of Canicross.

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 Louie because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you 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).

Under Control, Self-Control and Being Relevant

under control

Obi and Leia

I was greeted by nine-month-old Cocker Spaniel, Leia, flying all over me in delight. It was largely my fault the two young dogs weren’t under control. Both Leia and fifteen-month-old Obi had been trained to go to their ‘place’ when someone comes in. Quite impressive for such excitable dogs. I had interrupted that.

They don’t, however, stay on their place for more than a second unless continually returned to it.

When not under control they have little self-control.

The two dogs have been going to training classes. They have also started gun dog training which should help to satisfy some of Obi’s unfulfilled instincts. Both dogs have a good vocab of ‘commands’ and enjoy training games.

‘Commands’ learnt in traditional training classes don’t always transfer to real life. One reason for this is arousal and another is distraction. It’s hard to keep a young dog like Leia sitting still somewhere, under control, when with her whole being she wants to fly all over the place in wild excitement!

Self-control is acquired by the dog working out what works by only reinforcing the wanted behaviour. She then understands what is required without having to be told. Modern classes now use clicker training, shaping etc. so dogs learn for themselves.

This wasn’t the actual purpose of my visit. The family would like to trust Obi around other dogs and also to come back when called.

He has become increasingly grumpy when approached by certain dogs though will never make the first move. He is fine if they leave him alone. It seems that it’s young dogs and puppies that are the problem.

The other day he pinned down and bit a young puppy.

There are two problems for Obi that I see.

One is that he is highly aroused and on a near-obsessive sniff and hunt all the time he’s out. Everything else is shut out including the person walking him. The other is that while he’s working hard at hunting and sniffing he doesn’t want to be interrupted, particularly by a young and bouncy dog.

Lost in his own world, Obi will totally ignore, probably doesn’t even hear, being called.

Since he began to be grumpy with other dogs about six months ago, Obi is mostly kept under control on lead. He strains against it, deprived of his sniffing ‘fix’.

Working to improve walks, the young man will be:

Getting and holding Obi’s attention by being relevant and motivating.

Changing the way walks with Obi are done.

Changing the way walks are done

If Obi were more engaged with his walker, the young man, he would be less fixated on his own activities all the time. It stands to reason that other dogs interfering with what he’s doing would be likely to worry him less.

It will be hard work because this ‘Spaniel’ sniffing is giving Obi’s brain something he really needs. It can’t be simply prevented. It needs to be controlled or replaced.

Walks now will be something altogether different from the time they leave the house. Instead of trying to control an Obi who is pulling him down the road from one sniff to another, the young man can work at making pavement walks something a bit unpredictable and more fun (I call them drunken walks!). He needs to make himself even more relevant (he already puts in a lot of effort with the training and a bit of added psychology should now help).

In open spaces Obi can no longer be trusted off lead. Like the off-lead dogs that run up to him ought to be, he is kept under control. On a long line he has a degree of freedom and they can work on recall.

Here is a very good link for people wanting to teach a busy spaniel to stay near them – quartering.

Just a change of tactic can make a big difference.

I’m sure the young man won’t mind my quoting the email he just sent me the following day, having tried really engaging with Obi on the morning walk. You can see that the lad is a star!

‘I took him for a drunken road walk this morning. And as if by magic! I think he started (pulling and sniffing) twice for about 10 seconds and I was able to get him back on attention. I felt a fool doing it but the way he looked at me on the walk made me forget about it. I wasn’t sure if he was looking at me as though I’d invented sliced bread or whether he thought I was so nuts that he felt he had to keep on eye on me. But, he didn’t pull, not once. We stopped halfway and went on the long line to do some smelling games on a small field, played some fetch and with the long line managed to get him bringing the ball back and dropping it, as his attention started to dwindle we called it a day and moved on. Next time I will move on before it starts to dwindle. I let him hold onto the ball during the walk and like you said, he was more interested in holding the ball than smelling. He was walking, but not like a spaniel, his head was up for most of the walk and flitting between looking at me and looking ahead. He was rarely ahead of me.’

Self control – not ‘under control’.

A good start.

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Obi. 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, particularly where any form of aggression is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

 

Bored Dog Looking For Trouble!

Sometimes encouraged to jump up, sometimes scolded for jumping upPointer spends a lot of time looking for troubleOne-year-old Pointer, Chase, is a working dog without sufficient outlets to exercise his brain! With a dog like this, a daily walk simply isn’t enough. By getting attention in any way that he can, bored dog Chase is giving himself work to do.

He must also be very confused. For instance, he jumps up at people. Sometimes it’s ignored, sometimes it is actively encouraged and sometimes he is scolded, ‘No – Get Down’.

Whenever the lady wants some peace, Chase is ‘winding her up’, so he will end up in his crate.

After I had shown her what to do, the lady clicked (with clicker) or said ‘Yes’ every time Chase did something good. No more ‘No’. If he had his feet on the side, she clicked when they were back on the floor and he came for his reward. Each time he jumped on anyone, they ignored it and turned away, and the lady clicked as soon as he was back on the floor.

Now this is exactly the sort of brain work Chase needs. He is a gorgeous, good-natured and friendly dog – but a bored dog looks for things to do. His evenings now need to be punctuated by regular short human-instigated occupations.

The greatest problem – the problem I was called out for is his pulling on lead. Before that can be resolved, his extreme, uncontrolled behaviour before he even sets out on a walk has to be dealt with.

As soon as the lead comes out he runs and hides – not because he doesn’t like it but because it instigates a chase game.

Once the lead is on, Chase is leaping about grabbing, wrestling and pulling it – instigating his own tug game! He has eaten his way through several leads.

Again, I showed them how to concentrate on what they DO want and not what they don’t want. Soon I had my long loose lead on him. I simply waited and waited until he was still and calm, and then asked him gently to sit. He doesn’t need to be ‘commanded’ – just reminded.

I popped the lead on and the manic jumping, grabbing game commenced.

What was the behaviour I wanted? I wanted him to release the lead from his mouth! When he grabs it, the human is holding it tight and the opposition reflex kicks in. Both are pulling and it’s a good tug game. He grabbed the lead, I approached him which loosened it. I kept doing this. No game. As soon as he let go I said Yes and rewarded him with something a bit special. We carried on like this for a few minutes and soon he was walking around the house calmly on a loose lead.

He had been taught what I did want, and he was finding it rewarding.

The next door neighbour comes each day to take Chase for a walk, and thankfully he was at our meeting. The walks may be a bit shorter to start with because they will be late starting out. When the man arrives Chase is usually leaping all over him and getting a fuss for doing so. That now has all to change. The man will wait for as long as it takes for Chase to calm down and stop jumping up. Then he will take the lead to the door and once more wait until Chase comes voluntarily, and sits calmly to have the lead on. Then there will probably be some pantomime of lead grabbing and jumping about. This will take some more time while he reminds Chase that NOT grabbing the lead is what is wanted.

Only then will they be ready to start out on their walk.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chase, which is why I don’t go into all 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).

Golden Retriever Can’t Be Walked

GoldiePipSometimes life just doesn’t go according to plan. The gentleman had an emergency operation three weeks ago and will take some time to fully recover. He was the main dog walker as the lady is not strong enough to manage her alone, Pip can’t be walked.

Pip is a very energetic eleven month old Golden Retriever who is coping with the lack of stimulation and exercise remarkably well. They are doing their best with ball games in the garden and up and down the stairs along with some training, but it’s a difficult situation.

Young and enthusiastic, the outside world is just too stimulating and is getting more so by the day. Pip is desperate to introduce herself to every person she sees but most especially every dog.

Pip walked around the house beautifully with me, walking from room to room even when I didn’t have a lead on her, but as soon as we got outside the front door she was on sensory overload.  The only way anybody could walk her anywhere in that state of mind would be by using physical restraint, and that’s exactly what I work to avoid. I came back in. Even immediately outside their front door is a huge adrenalin rush for her.

Because increasingly she has insufficient opportunity to interact with other dogs, dogs are understandably super-exciting to her, maybe just a little daunting too.

So here is something the couple can do. They can keep going in and out of the front door as well as standing around out there, doing it so frequently that she starts to become more accustomed.

The more little outings she has the more mundane they will become.

I suggested a dog walker for now, until the man regains his strength. This way Pip could get to be walked with other dogs so that she remains socialised.

There are more things they can do at home to stimulate her. Scenting, searching and foraging is great for healthy stimulation and giving the dog’s nose the work it is designed to do. They can work on her recall too. They can walk her around the house and garden to practise their new loose-lead walking technique. Instead of reacting when she jumps up, as well as turning away they can actively mark and reward her when her feet are on the ground as well as other times when she’s calm or lies down.

Looking for, and rewarding, what we do want rather than simply reacting to the behaviour we don’t want not only makes the dog happy, it makes us happy too.

Pip is a little nervous of new things. The less she is out in the real world the more sensitive she will become.  I wanted to try a special soft but secure harness on her and left it on the floor for her to investigate. She was a little wary of it. I worked on introducing it to her very slowly. Treats for hearing it click together (not on her), a treat for sniffing it; soon she was putting her own head through the hole to get the food and I carried on on desensitising her. I didn’t push it. They will take it very slowly and she should be welcoming the harness after a couple more sessions.

This way she will associate it with good stuff.

Remember a song that brings back wonderful memories? ‘Your’ song’ (mine was ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water – a very long time ago!)? That song is associated with special times and your brain is now hard-wired so whenever you hear it you re-live a little how you felt back then. This is the sort of positive association we want to give our dogs when we are desensitising them to something.

It’s just over two weeks later and things are looking up for Pip: “We took Pip out yesterday on her harness and we were both impressed with how well she walked. It was a pretty stress free little stroll & we even met children on scooters which didn’t really faze her and even when we met another dog she was fairly sensible ! The hunt the treat game in the garden is probably her favourite game to date and she is getting rather good at it, she waits excitedly inside the kitchen while one of us lays the bait. Then its nose down and away then she wont stop till she’s found it all.
A month has now gone by since we started: Pip continues to do well especially when walking on the lead. There is no manic activity to get out of the house anymore just a calm but purposeful walk ! The harness has been a tremendous help and worth every penny….. Games in the house and garden are times enjoyed by all three of us and play quite a big part of our day. Pip does seem  more content and calmer during her day and is happier to rest when we do or if we  have other things to do . The jumping up is slowly improving …. she’s beginning to sit or play with a toy on her own. All things considered Pip is a much happier 14 month old [ and so are we ] and we  certainly feel more able to cope .  Especially now that we have all your great suggestions and ideas to help us on our journey with her.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pip, which is why I don’t share all the exact details 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).

Changed From Pulling on Lead to Walking Nicely

pulling on lead to walking nicelyI don’t remember, out of all the Labradoodles I have been to, going to a black one. Audrey is gorgeous (the lady joked on the phone that the name was so that her husband would have to call ‘Audrey’ on walks!).

Funnily enough, not coming when called until she feels like it is one of the problems I was called out for and I don’t think a different name would help much! The other day she chased after a deer, and no amount of shouting could get her back.

Over-excitement

The other issue is over-excitement when meeting people, either visitors to the house or when out on walks. Being mugged by an over-excited big dog, however lovely, isn’t so nice when she has just been in the river.

Audrey really is a fantastic dog – a wonderful, gentle family pet for the children, and in all other respects she’s very biddable. However, more could be done with her if she understood that unwanted behaviours get her nothing, and, even more importantly, that desired behaviours get her rewarding reinforcement. If how they currently deal with the mugging of people worked, she wouldn’t still be doing it after three years.

On walks she won’t come back until she’s ready when she sees a person or dog. If she gets the scent of a rabbit or deer she goes deaf. In fact, a dog fired up on a chase just won’t hear our call. We have left it too late. We must keep our eye on the ball. We have a plan, but it will take time to condition Audrey.

Pulling on lead

Pulling on lead, the other problem – magic! It was so satisfying just how quickly she changed from a dog that pulls on lead despite constant correction and being told ‘Heel’, to a dog walking beautifully beside them on a loose lead with encouragement only. Both dog and humans caught on immediately.

It is all about having a different mind-set.

Audrey had been expected to work for nothing – not even encouragement. They were trying to make her do what they wanted. Now they were making her WANT to do what they want. Using reward and encouragement results in a willing dog enjoying herself.  She has to eat anyway, so why not earn some of it?

On a first visit I usually don’t get much further than walking around the garden, but the lady and Audrey then progressed to the front door and, after a false start, down the steps. No pulling. On a loose lead she walked beside the lady across the road.  Beautiful. The lady, who had been used to the pulling, agreed that it felt wonderful.

It is all about having the right technique, the right equipment – and most of all, the right mental approach.

Encouragement, feedback for doing it right and reward, in place of correction and impatience.

Loves People, Not So Good With Other Dogs

Milo is good with people but not good with other dogsMilo is quite unusual – a Dalmation Collie cross (called, I think, a Dolly!). Here he is in my demo harness which fitted him so well I left it behind.

His lady owner works from home with people calling frequently; Milo is polite and extremely well socialised. He loves people. If he had frequently met as many dogs from his early months as he had people, then I’m sure everything would be fine with them also.

Milo’s problems are other dogs on walks.

He pulls his owners down the road despite a tight lead and constant correction. If he sees other dogs he lunges and barks. He is then restrained and forced onwards towards or past the dog. Any apprehension he may have when encountering a dog will be intensified by his humans’ reactions.

He currently has either a short lead or a retractable lead. A loose longer lead attached to his chest will give him an entirely different sensation. No more being pulled back. If the lead goes tight, they won’t follow. They will encourage him to walk beside them through choice not force using reward and encouragement rather than force or scolding, and when they see other dogs they will react in such a way that he learns to have confidence in them (and they in him).

There was a very unfortunate incident the other day when, off lead, he met a dog coming round a corner and attacked it, injuring it badly, hence my visit. This must simply never happen again. Recall work is a priority for however long it takes, and Milo will lose his freedom meanwhile – limited by a ten metre long line.

Controlled and comfortable walks

Calling MILO COME is useless because he has learnt to ignore it until he is ready, so they will be using a whistle now. Seeing other dogs must now mean clock in with his humans.

Repeatedly using a whistle for recall games at home, rewarding him with something small but very tasty, they should eventually make running to them at the sound of the whistle an automatic reaction. That is how it has become with my own dogs. I now use it sparingly and I always make it worth their while to come straight away whatever they are doing.

It is hard to believe that the dog I met, and the dog you see in the picture, could behave in such an aggressive manner. Those dogs he has met in a controlled way and knows he’s fine with; otherwise I believe he thinks, ‘I will get them before they get me’.

Charlie Doesn’t Feel Safe

From her owners’ perspective, adorable Bichon-Maltese mix Charlie is given everything a dog could possibly want for a happy life. They always thought the moBichon Charlie is yawning because he feels uneasyre excited she is the more joyful she feels. From Charlie’s perspective she is living a life punctuated by extreme stress and chronic anxiety.

Deservedly, Charlie is adored by the family – a lady, her daughter and her two granddaughters. By the end of my visit they began to see things in a different light. See the yawn? She is showing unease at being looked at while I took the photo.

When they greet Charlie she is ‘beyond excited’ and they fire her up with vigorous attention – so much so that she may pee. They believe just because she’s so excited that it’s good for her. The lady always thought that Charlie loved to go out in the car. Charlie’s excited and jumps in willingly, but then she is barking at people, dogs and traffic. She is left in the car when the lady shops because ‘she loves it’ even though she’s quite happy left at home. The entire time she is barking at anything she sees that moves. Beautiful Bichon Frise

Walks are horrendous. She pulls and barks at people, dogs and cars. It’s constant. They take her into the town where she is a ‘nightmare’, going for people’s legs; Mostly she is taken by car (barking all the way) to the park where she and her nervous owner are all the time looking about in near panic should a person or dog appear and if she’s off lead she will run back to the car or even try to find her way home.

Despite all this and like many other people – the lady feels that as a good and loving dog owner she must make Charlie go through this nightmare every day, and feels guilty if walks are missed. I would argue that Charlie’s mental and psychological health is more important than walks. Working on her confidence when out of the house will take a lot of time and patience.

I have recently watched a new DVD by famous trainer/behaviourist Suzanne Clothier called ‘Arousal, Anxiety and Fear’. She says she always mentally asks the dog, ‘How is this for you?’ She says ‘Make your dog feel safe’.

We put our dogs in situations where we think they are safe – but does the dog feel safe?

Loving their dogs as they do, why do so few people not consider, ‘How is this for you’ and help them out?

Boxer Lunges at Other Dogs on Walks

Boxer Candy lying asleep with her tongue outThis is Candy, a 2-year-old Boxer in her typical pose with  tongue out! Up until last October her sister, Floss, lived with them also, but due to Floss’ bullying and dominating Candy who was the more sensitive and nervous of the two, they found a new home for Floss. This was additionally necessary because it had developed into fighting and drawing blood, and the family has two young children. It is likely we could have done something about this had I been called in back then.

Straight away Candy was a happier, more relaxed dog – in all respects bar one. Where before she had been fine around other dogs,  now she is extremely reactive – barking and lunging in a scary manner.

It seems she felt that the bossy Floss was the leader, protector and decision-maker out on walks and without her the burden has fallen upon Candy herself. She simply can’t cope.

At home she is mild-mannered, gentle and loving. Then as soon as the door is open she charges out, pulling. This will be very uncomfortable for her because she still pulls despite wearing a Gentle Leader head halter which she hates and tries to remove.

It is a really clear example of how dogs, especially dogs of a more nervous temperament, need leadership in the sense of ‘guide, decision-maker and protector’ (not ‘dictator’) and it would seem in Candy’s case that even Floss’ sort of leadership was better than none. The lady has taken her to classes. On walks they continually correct her by jerking the lead and saying ‘heel’. It makes no difference beyond probably adding to the stress of all concerned. All they are doing is trying to control her physically because they are stronger than she is and have the head halter. This is not what I consider to be leadership and neither, evidently, does Candy.

It would be a rare sight to see a dog that walks calmly beside a person on a longish loose lead, sniffing the ground and doing what dogs naturally do, with no gadgets like head halters or retractable leads, suddenly lunging and barking at other dogs.

Happy, calm, loose-lead walking is where it all has to start, and I show how this is achieved. Then ‘other dogs’ can be added gradually into the equation, but in controlled situations to begin with.

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