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).

Increasingly Reactive to Other Dogs

German Shepherd, Portuguese Water Dog mix attacked another dogAround nine months to a year ago Mo gradually changed from being a confident dog that loved all other dogs to how he is now, reactive to many dogs.

Mo is a cross between a German Shepherd and a Portuguese Water Dog – unusual and beautiful.  He is 20 months old.

As with most dogs, he is worse when on lead. The other day he went for another dog when he was off the lead – the only other time he did this was some months ago when they were on holiday. They decided it was time to get some help.

We looked a little into past history. At the time when Mo started to change there were a few things happening in his life that perhaps individually would have made little difference but when added together may have played a part.  Firstly, they moved house. Previously he had many doggy friends that he played with daily. The young couple had been living with parents so Mo would not have been left alone much, and he started showing signs of distress when left. Also around that time he was castrated. The final thing that won’t have helped is that along a track at the start of their usual walk they regularly used to meet a dog that barked aggressively at Mo, and now he is particularly reactive along this same track.  In fact it was the scene of the recent incident.

Like us, dogs have much better memories for scary things and locations. It’s much harder to wipe out a really bad experience than to recall a good one.

Mo’s not consistent. Some days he takes little notice of the other dogs and some days he reacts. The two times he actually went for a dog were each at the end of a period of upheaval. There was a build up of exciting and overwhelming activity over previous days with lots of people, a holiday packed with activity in a new environment, excited children, too much noise and so on.

Whilst Mo needs plenty of stimulation of a healthy sort, he doesn’t need to be over-stimulated. The longer evening walk itself possibly over-stimulates him in some way because he doesn’t settle afterwards.

People often don’t see the connection between the state of mind the dog already is in before leaving the house and how reactive he is on walks and believe it to be merely a training issue, but homework is usually needed also.

At home Mo needs to be able to trust his humans to take care of any perceived danger in just the way he needs to be able to trust them when out on a walk.  Food is about the best resource for getting the dog to associate other dogs with something nice, but it has little value if it’s constantly available at home for free. He loves a ball, so maybe the only time for now he gets to hold a ball when out on a walk is when they are passing another dog. They need to know exactly what to do and what sort of distance there should be between the two dogs.

When walking past other dogs they need to be able to hold his attention. If they can’t do this at home they won’t get it out on walks.

They need equipment that is comfortable – at present they have a short and heavy chain lead, a Halti and a retractable lead.  None of these are conducive of happy, comfortable loose lead walking and in fact will make him feel restrained and trapped.

Mo has some doggy friends and he needs lots of opportunity to play with them. He however needs to learn, by constant repetition, to default to coming back to his humans whenever he sees another dog – and then they can decide what to do, not Mo.

A couple of days later: ‘We have already had a couple of good experiences with other dogs and Mo has showed improvement in loose lead walking. Yesterday I actually enjoyed our walk together for the first time in months!!’
A month has now gone by and this message shows just what can be achieved when people carefully follow our plan: ‘Last weekend we took him for a long walk across big open fields where we could avoid dogs if we saw any. At the end of the walk we saw two dogs coming in the distance so called mo back with the whistle, turned back in the other direction and left about 25-30 metres distance for these dogs to pass. We had mo sat down with a treat but made sure that he was able to see the dogs and he didn’t react at all! He definitely saw them but was so focused on me and the treat that he didn’t care, so we felt really good after that’. Another month later: Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into helping us so far, we are so grateful and are really enjoying seeing the improvement in Mo and really feel that we understand him far more than we used to 🙂

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

 

Aggressive Encounters with Older Dogs

Bear is relaxed at home but can't be trusted with other dogs out on walks

Bear

Bear on the left is a 4-year-old mix of Jack Russell, Springer Spaniel and Shitzu! He lives with JR Nellie and an older Border Terrier.

All three dogs are very friendly without being pushy and life would be fine if Bear could be trusted with other dogs when out on walks. Unpredictably, he can mix with some other dogs when they are all off lead, but more often he is reactive and aggressive, particularly when either he or the other dog is on lead.

Friendly Jack Russell Nellie

Nellie

It probably all started when Bear was a very young dog; he would race up and down the fence with the neighbour’s very dog-aggressive larger dog doing the same thing the other side.  There would have been lots of barking and snarling. With hindsight it would have been a lot better if Bear had not been allowed to do this because he was already honing his hostile dog-to-dog skills – learning from the older dog.

Bear has attacked a couple young dogs out on walks which may well be doing them the harm that the big dog next door did to Bear.  It’s important that he never has the opportunity to do this again.

In order for Bear to learn reliable recall, working for food is the easiest and most efficient incentive (play and praise also can be used).

One might think that the work starts outside the house, but no.  A dog that is pandered to where food is concerned isn’t going to want to work for it. Bear won’t eat his very good food unless extra fish is added. I offered him a piece of cheese and he just  walked away!

Soon he will eat what he is given, he will go to his bowl rather than having it brought to him and he will eat it up without tasty extras added. Only then he will begin to value the more tasty stuff and they can then start to work on his dog-reactivity.

It is essential that he comes when called – not just when he feels like it but when there is another dog about. If he ignores them at home when they call him or want him to do something, he certainly won’t come running back when called if he’s spotted another dog.

When food gains value as a currency and they themselves gain more relevance so he more willingly does their bidding, they can then be using the special tasty stuff for rewards and reinforcement rather than bribes added to his food to make him eat!

 

Two Beautiful Blond German Shepherds

Two beautiful white German ShepherdsYesterday I visited another pair of large dogs that are wonderful in the house but who are giving the lady owner problems out on walks.

Kaiser and Boodie are most unusal and stunning to look at. They are young cream-coloured German Shepherds, both in their third year. Their experienced German Shepherd owners have given their dogs a perfect mixture of love, discipline and socialisation. Unfortunately, the man is now no longer fit enough to walk the dogs, so it is his wife’s job.

It is such a shame when a dog that used to absolutely fine with other dogs is attacked by one. Sometimes ‘life happens’. An off-lead Staffie went for Kaiser back in January and since then he has become very wary and reactive to any dog he feels might be aggressive, especially if they bark or make a noise.  The lady was naturally very shaken after this attack and came home in tears. So, in addition to coping with being attacked, Kaiser also had his owner’s weakness to deal with. It is so often the case that when the dog most needs our calm strong moral support, we go to pieces.

The same thing happened to my own Shepherd Milly a while ago. A Staffie leapt over a wall and went for her. Because due to my experience I wasn’t fazed I reacted calmly and knew what to do. I stood talking to the gentleman owner for a few minutes. On our way back past that wall Milly was unconcerned. Fortunately, thanks to her long coat she was more or less unharmed.

Sadly, it is often Staffies who are the culprits, and this is nothing to do with the fact they are Staffordshire Bull Terriers. It is to do with the type of owners who choose them. This I know is a gross generalisation so I humbly apologise to the kind of SBT owners who would be reading this, but too often they are owned by people who don’t use leads and whose way of disciplining their dogs is very harsh, and too often they are not bred carefully for temperament. I have met many wonderful Staffies.

Anyway, my client is a lady who last weekend was pulled over and dragged along the ground by her two dogs when Kaiser lunged towards a dog he didn’t like the look of, backed up by Boodie. The lady has a cut face and injuries to her arm and legs. She needs help. Previous walking has depended upon the man or the son being strong and the use of choke chains. The lady needs these dogs to walk beside her through choice and for Kaiser not to be on the defensive, so she needs different equipment and to learn a completely different walking technique.

Home life with these two dogs is harmonious in every other respect, but now that they have this problem the lady will need to gain stronger leadership so that Kaiser doesn’t feel he is in charge, needing to protect her and himself from other dogs, looking to her instead.

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

Good With People, Not With Other Dogs

Tasha is the perfect dog at homeGerman Shepherd Tasha was happy to see me when I arrived as she is with all people. When her new owners inherited her about four months ago she would jump up, but no longer.

Tasha is similar to other two dogs I’ve most recently visited in that she is fine at home, good with people, but not so good with other dogs out on walks. When this is the case I can usually bet that before even encountering other dogs things aren’t going as well as they should.  The dog will not be walking on a loose lead, sniffing and doing doggy-walk things. She will be pulling and she will be on the alert. A tight short lead gives no freedom and a retractable/extendable/flexi lead that is never loose will only compound the problem.

The owners had their previous two German Shepherds from puppies but Tasha is five years old. They were taken by surprise when she suddenly lunged and snarled at another dog. It seems likely that in the past Tasha was seldom walked on lead. She lived happily with another Shepherd. A dog on lead she is trapped and can’t freeze or flee, and there is a good chance that if she were free she would be quite OK with other dogs. Naturally they can’t test that yet. From that first lunge the lady owner in particular is scared and won’t walk Tasha alone any more. The gentleman holds the lead short and tight as soon as they spot another dog, irrespective of whether Tasha might be OK. They are in effect telling her that all dogs mean trouble, and Tasha will be reacting accordingly. It is a vicious circle.

Tasha now wears a Halti head collar which she tries to remove. Walks are increasingly stressful for both Tasha and her owners.

Once again we humans need to see things from the dog’s point of view and react appropriately.  Firstly, in all areas of life, in behaving like leaders the will give Tasha the opportunity to make the right decisions because she wants to please, rather than having them imposed upon her. For instance, instead of charging out of the door first at the start of the walk, she will work it out for herself that the door simply won’t open for her until she hangs back so they can go out together. The same rule applies to pulling down the road. She will work it out for herself over the next few days that she will only progress anywhere when the lead is loose (which is easier than it sounds so long as handlers stop all ‘correcting’and ‘training’ ).

Without walking out calmly and nicely and without then walking happily on a loose lead, Tasha is going to be in a stressy state of mind when she is confronted with possible trouble – other dogs. Finally they will work towards being able to trust Tasha to come back when called, so that she can be off lead. I am pretty sure other dogs will then seem far less of a threat to her.

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