His Fear of People is Puzzling

I have just met another Henry – a Miniature Schnauzer age two. He is quite unusual to look at, being brown and with a poodle-like curly coat. Cute! fear of people makes him bark at them

Henry was barking behind a door when I arrived. Let out after I had sat down, he came charging up to me, barking quite fiercely. This didn’t last for long and I could see that he was scared whilst also wanting to make friends. He backed away and inched forwards. He licked his lips.

Within a very few minutes of being left to do things in his own time, he was taking food from me and we were friends.

Fear of people when out is causing problems.

Henry is very reactive to anyone he meets when out on walks. It’s even worse if they have a dog.

Unlike some scared dogs that back away and try to make themselves small, like others Henry seems to feel that attack is the best form of defense.

It’s puzzling why he has become like this. His mother has an even temperament. He was introduced nicely to everyday life at a young age and so far as I can see they did everything right. Nothing seemed to scare him early on, it just slowly developed. Nobody has ever hurt him.

On lead he will walk nicely until he sees a person or a dog, and then, while his human traps him tightly on a short lead as they pass, he strains to get to them, barking all the time. Their very common approach teaches him nothing. It won’t be making him feel any less fearful of people and dogs.

The million dollar question is what should they be doing?

It stands to reason that if people continue as they are, nothing will change. The only way is to do things completely differently.

Any continued close encounters with people and dogs will merely go on making things worse. Where can they go to avoid them? There are people and dogs everywhere.

Where there’s a will there has to be a way.

The three choices are stark.

There are three choices when considering what to do about reactivity, barking and lunging through fear of people and dogs when out.

The choices aren’t based on convenience or lifestyle. They are just fact.

One is great, one is dreadful and the third is doing nothing.

Either Henry’s root fear needs changing so that he no longer feels scared. No longer feeling scared, he will no longer be noisy. He will in time be a happy and much more confident dog. Everyone will enjoy walks. Job done.

It’s all about building up trust.

Another possibility (which Henry’s humans won’t be doing!) is to deal with just the symptom – the barking, pulling and lunging – with no regard for the emotions which making him behave like this. This is punishment administered by a human who is simply bigger and stronger and may also have painful equipment to use on the dog.

This is the ‘dominance’ approach used in the bad old days. Cruelty used to force a dog through pain and fear.

This destroys all trust.

It’s hard to believe in this enlightened day and age that there are still trainers and TV programmes that advocate this kind of approach.

Who could want their relationship with their dog to be on that footing? Certainly not Henry’s owners.

There is a third choice which some people understandably end opting for. That is simply to give up and live with things as they are.

Harry has six loving adult humans in his life who have always done their best for him. Between them they will do whatever is required to build up his confidence. They will all need to pull together. Behind his fear of people is a very friendly little dog ready to burst out.

All people must be consistent in keeping the threshold distance for Henry from dogs and people while they work on things. This isn’t optional. The will each know how to react should someone unexpectedly appear or if they have a ‘near-dog encounter’.

Henry is never let off lead although they live very near to parkland. Here they meet few dogs and people which is ideal for a dog with fear of people. They can drive there. They can even jog to get there. He’s not reactive while they are running.

They will get a long line for him so that he has some freedom. This will make his walks fulfilling.

Fear of people doesn’t involve avoiding people altogether but working on them within Henry’s comfort zone. If Henry’s humans all stick to this and take it slowly, his confidence is certain to grow.

They will need to be tough about appearing unfriendly by creating distance between themselves and people who want to talk to them. If they want success they have no choice. Here is a little video about how to increase space without seeming rude.

There are certain sacrifices to be made but it will be so well worth it in the end.

 

Assistance Dog. Assistance Human. Companion.

The young owner and her dog have a special partnership. Her aim is for the 21-month-old Beagle, Lulu, to become her trained assistance dog, particularly giving her confidence where meeting people when out is concerned.

A Beagle for an Assistance Dog?

Beagles are renowned for being friendly, gentle and affectionate. They aren’t however renowned for great recall – genetically bred to hunt. However, over the past few months Lulu’s young owner has been studying dog behaviour and is already very switched-on. She has been working very hard. Lulu’s recall is great.

Beagle as assistance dogThere are some hurdles to overcome.

Where Lulu may not be so typically Beagle is where her wariness of people is concerned. This is something that will need to be resolved if she’s to make a good assistance dog. The young owner has already made great progress with people approaching directly or coming too close, but there is a way to go.

Most of us know how difficult it is to stop a determined ‘dog lover’ from coming up to our dog, looming over and putting a hand out to touch her. She will need to become accepting of this. A ‘Dog in Training’ vest should help.

Her role as assistance dog will also require Lulu to be fairly bomb proof to sudden noises and appearances. It will require that she is much more chilled about people coming into her home.

My job as a general behaviourist is to help the young owner to build up Lulu’s confidence. From there they will get more specialised help from someone who works specifically with this kind of assistance dog.

Arousal

Recently the young owner moved back home where Lulu joins two other dogs, Nettie, a Labrador Staffie mix, and a little terrier.

With three dogs and five people in the household, there is a lot more excitement.

Callers coming to the house are posing a problem at the moment, with both dogs barking initially and again if the person gets up and moves about. Strangely, Nettie didn’t do this before Lulu came to live with them. Now Nettie starts it off!

When the two dogs regularly bark at passing people and other dogs from the window or the garden, they are, to their minds, chasing people and dogs away. It works. Where Lulu reacts to people, Nettie reacts to other dogs.They are rehearsing the very behaviour that’s unwanted when they are out.

Underpinning everything is for all three dogs to be a lot calmer. This can only happen if the humans themselves are calmer with them.

Reducing barking is a large part of the calming down process. Family members can help too by not playing hands-on vigorous games, along with not getting the dogs excited when they return home. It’s not necessary. We humans don’t greet one another in that way after a few hours apart, do we.

Out on walks

Lulu’s assistance dog role will be needed most when they go out.

Both dogs pull on lead and are usually walked separately. When she has calmed down, however, Lulu can walk nicely – I have seen videos.

The road walks will begin with just hanging around near to the house and waiting for calm. Now Lulu needs two things. She needs to learn to walk nicely beside the girl when ‘on duty’. She also needs ‘Lulu time’.

I suggest more frequent very short walks to work on technique, with a Perfect Fit harness (D-rings on both back and chest) and double-ended training lead. Lulu can learn to feel the difference between how the harness is used when being asked to walk nicely and when she can have a bit of freedom – ‘off duty’.

Walking nicely beside the girl can be prompted by attaching the lead both to the front and chest. After a few minutes of this, one end of the lead can be unclipped and left on either front or back only. Lulu can now be given full length and the girl can allow Lulu to lead her where she wants (within reason). Lulu can choose.

Because her recall is so good, Lulu can then be taken to somewhere open where she can be free to let off steam, run around and sniff.

Where encountering people is concerned, they will continue to work with Lulu’s wariness of approaching people using the ‘Engage/Disengage Game‘ which involves keeping as much distance as is required.

Operation Calm

So, it’s ‘Operation Calm’ to start with, to establish firm foundations.

Both the girl and her lovely Beagle can help one another by sending currents of confidence up and down the lead when approached by someone, rather than tingles of anxiety

Lulu may soon be in training to become a proper Assistance Dog; the girl is already Lulu’s Assistance Human!

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 Lulu and the other dogs and 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, particularly where fear or 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)

 

Nips Legs. Barks at People. Walking Legs

Little Miniature Wire Haired Daschund, Ziggy, is scared of people he doesn’t know coming to his house. Particularly if they are standing up and even more so if they are walking about. He is a brave little dog. Instead of running, he faces his fear. He barks. He nips legs, particularly trousers.

Imagine how intimidating approaching and looming ‘walking legs’ can seem to a tiny dog.

Ziggy may react in much the same way if someone he already knows suddenly appears. If a child runs down the stairs and ‘explodes’ into the room, it will alarm him to the extent that he might rush to them and nip their legs.

A child was bitten on the leg.

Unfortunately this happened with a visiting child and, in the excitement, she received a bite to her leg.

This is a slippery slope. The more Ziggy’s reactive behaviour happens and seems to be successful (to his mind), the worse it will get. Ziggy barks at people as they come into the house through fear and probably some sense of territorial responsibility also. He behaves like he feels he must deal with them.

The adorable little dog is ten months old. He lives with an even smaller Miniature Wire Haired Daschund, Bea, a couple and their two boys.

Ziggy nips legs when people walk about.

His attempt to make people back off nearly always works because at the very least they may stop or recoil. When people and dogs pass by the garden fence he will believe it’s his barking that sends them on their way.

This is the way that matters inevitably snowball in the wrong direction.

To change the now-learned and well-rehearsed behaviour, Ziggy needs to be shown alternative, incompatible behaviours.

But this isn’t enough. Most crucially of all, his wariness of people he doesn’t know needs to be dealt with at source. He needs help to feel differently about them.

He always nips legs in a generally aroused environment. The calmer Ziggy can be general, the more successful the work will be. Calm isn’t so easy with children of around nine years old!

Management.

An important element for dealing with this sort of thing is management. With certain practical precautions in place they will simply make a recurrence of the biting incident with the visiting child impossible.

Practice makes perfect. An interesting read.

They can make the constant rehearsal of barking at their own children when they run downstairs and burst out through that door impossible – with a permanently shut baby gate that has to be opened. The time the kids have to take to open it, throwing food over first, will give Ziggy time to be prepared.

Use of the gate and of a lead will also physically manage Ziggy’s behaviour when visitors come.

Strategies for callers to the house include rolling food away from themselves for Ziggy – this immediately worked for me. He initially returned to barking between times but soon calmed down.

At any break in this barking, they can quickly say ‘Good’ and drop food, reinforcing quiet. This teaches him what they DO want. They can also reinforce him for looking at the person whilst being quiet – or doing anything else that they like.

Standing up and walking about.

I knew that the problem might start again when I stood up so I did so slowly – dropping food as I did so.

I carried on dropping food as I walked slowly about and he was fine.

Ziggy left the room. A minute later he came back in and I was still standing up. He went back to barking at me.

What worked best of all for Ziggy was, each time he began to bark at me, someone called him away brightly and rewarded him for doing so. They had Ziggy on good ‘remote control’. They were helping him out.

Every dog and every situation is different and it’s a question of finding the right individual approach. People probably need professional help for this.

With Ziggy, the physical barriers being in place like the gate will give his family the time, peace of mind and space to do the necessary behaviour work.

The little dogs have a lovely life with their family. No pressure. Nice walks. They have company most of the time and, to loosely quote, ‘they just live with us, keep us company, and have cuddles and love’. The fact that he nips legs demonstrates that things are not quite perfect for Ziggy just now.

 

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 Ziggy and I’ve not gone fully into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear issues of any kind are concerned – particularly anything involving children. 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)

Two Romanian Street Dogs

Was a Romanian street dog

Roma

The two Romanian Street dogs I have just visited are doing magnificently as are their new custodians, a couple with a large open home, marble floors and furniture!

Everything is different and it’s not surprising that they are on high alert at times. At others they are amazingly chilled. It’s hard to believe they were flown over from Romania only three weeks ago.

Having lived on the streets till eighteen months ago and then all that time since in kennels, it’s little surprise that there are toilet accidents in the house. They have been scared of walking beside traffic which makes sense – freely roaming they would have kept away from a noisy road.

Roma is a Romanian Sheepdog of around five years old and Mocca a Collie mix, a year older. They look surprisingly similar really. The two dogs were best buddies during their time in kennels before coming here, which must have a lot to do with how well they are settling in. That, along with great work which must have been done by kennel staff and now by the couple they live with who have been fielding their issues with great sensitivity and insight.

Out in the garden in particular they are very reactivite to the smallest noise, including sounds inaudible to their humans.

Romanian Street Dog

Mocca

We will be approaching the barking situation from three angles. Firstly to reassure the dogs that they can trust their humans to be responsible for protecting them by how they deal with alarm barking.

Secondly, the best way to see this through is for the couple to call the dogs away from what they are barking at and to themselves, so a lot of recall work is needed until responding to being called is immediate. Thirdly desensitisation, removing the feelings of fear associated with noises.

Paired with the recall work the dogs should eventually accept most of the sounds and learn to go to their humans if they are worried. It needs consistency and persistence which these people certainly have.

Walking is the other area of major concern. Now that they have to walk on lead around the streets, we need to get into the dogs’ heads. How will they be feeling? Are they feeling safe? Comfortable?

Having been free-roaming street dogs, they will have been used to meeting and greeting people and dogs if they so chose and avoiding them if they preferred. They are now physically attached to a human – and by short and rather heavy chain leads. The first thing is the for the dogs to feel as free and relaxed as is possible; then to give them back some sense of choice as to whether they approach people and dogs or not.

They need comfortable equipment – I prefer Perfect Fit harnesses – with lightweight, longish training leads that can be hooked both back and chest. Then both dog and humans will feel safe and be safe.

I suggest they take the dogs back to ‘primary school’ with the walking. Why not start ‘walking school’ near home? Several five or ten minute sessions following the protocols just around the immediate locality, one dog at a time and swapping dogs so the one left behind doesn’t get too anxious. This will advance things a lot quicker than a tense mile-long walk with both dogs together, being forced near other dogs and people, and battling against things they hate like cats!

There is always a legitimate worry about whether the dog gets sufficient exercise, but it has been observed that dogs living free to do their own thing actually cover very little distance. We have to prioritise. Exercise with anxious dogs will do a lot less good than gradually acclimatising them with plenty of manageable and low-stress sessions that are both mental stimulation and fun.

If you are particularly interested in street dogs, why not watch the Living With a Street Dog webinar by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma.

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 Mocca and Roma. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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 Helppage)

Her Latest Dog is a Challenge

AshcroftDogs1

The lady I have just visited feels her latest dog is a challenge. Doberman Maddie’s owner has had several Dobermans but never one quite like two-year-old Maddie.

I think she must have been very lucky with her previous dogs if Maddie is the worst. She is gorgeous. Although with certain issues, she is no big problem – yet. The main worry is her increasing reactivity to other dogs when out when she’s on lead and her wariness of new people. Very sensibly the lady wants to nip things in the bud before they get any worse because her other Doberman, Tia, is now copying her.

Tia is five. She barks at dogs on TV and she is a big hunter when out and off lead but generally a lot calmer. The TV problem can be resolved fairly easily with patience, desensitisation and counter-conditioning. The running off after pheasants and not coming back for an hour and a half isn’t so easily or quickly solved!

This story is all about preventing things from developing and making walks more enjoyable for the lady – and for the dogs.

Like most people who have difficulties with their dogs when they are out, the roots of these problems can be somewhere else. Simply going out on walks and encountering other dogs and doing training doesn’t resolve the complete issue. Because we are dealing with the emotions that cause the dog to behave in a certain way when out, the home end of things can be very important also.

If the dog can’t give the owner her full attention when required indoors, then it won’t happen when out. If the dog is stressed at home, then she will be stressed when out. If the dog is either pulling down the road or the lead is at all tight at the start of the walk, then the stress levels will be rising. If the dog is physically and uncomfortably prevented from pulling with a gadget such as a head collar – then the walk could be doomed from the start because of how the dog will already be feeling.

Domberman sucking a toy

Maddie sucking her toy

In Maddie’s case there is a strong element of the stress that builds up over the days due to other things that are happening. Stress isn’t only bad stuff – with a sensitive dog it can be too much excitement, play or noise.

The lovely Maddie works very hard at keeping herself calm. She spends a lot of time chewing or suckling a cuddly toy.

Her reactivity is variable. Some days she can encounter a dog when she is on lead with no fuss at all and on other days she will react to the very same dog. This must be due to her own state of mind at the time, along with that of her human on the end of the lead who may be having a bad day or be more anxious. It could be that she has simply encountered one dog too many on that walk and can’t manage another.

There are quite a number of small things that can be done to ease Maddie’s stress levels in general. Her food could be better – this can make a huge difference.

With a calmer dog and with comfortable equipment, with calm loose-lead walking techniques used from the start of the walk along with a walk where she can sniff rather than a march forward, things will start to improve I’m sure. The lady will now have ways of keeping and holding her dogs’ attention and she will give them plenty of space from other dogs when needed, taking her cue from Maddie. Anything Maddie’s uneasy about can be worked on with positive associations at a distance where she feels safe.

Tia doesn't like having her photo taken

Tia doesn’t like having her photo taken

Recall work starts at home too. A big part of ‘coming when called’ is to do with the relevance of the person calling the dog – their relationship. Repeatedly calling or whistling at home in return for small high-value food gradually ‘charges the battery’ and then can be reinforced when out by the lady repeatedly calling them when knows they will come and simply not giving them freedom when she fears they won’t. (Each time she calls and they ignore her, the ‘battery’ is discharged a little).

Having just one dog off lead at a time can be an extra incentive for the other dog to come back too.

The lady will watch Tia closely for taking off after a pheasant or a jogger and preempt her. In addition to very high value food she can also redirect the drive to chase onto either a ball or even onto herself, making herself fun, making silly noises perhaps and running away! If these things don’t work, then I fear it will be a few months work on a long line for Tia.

These are fantastic dogs with a fantastic owner who is lucky to have a friend who walks the dogs everyday with her own dogs, who sat in on our meeting and will do her bit too. These dogs have a very good life!

Reactive to Dogs, People and the Unexpected

Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania

Holly

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland.

Berry

Both Holly on the right and Berry on the left came to live with my clients early last year. Both dogs are between two and three years old.

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland. Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania. She was picked up at seven months old with a broken leg and then went to live with another English family before moving into her forever home.

Holly quite well illustrates the difference between Romanian street dogs that are used to being around people, and other dogs that are coming from the same part of the world but have been living wild – feral dogs not used to humans. These feral dogs are a lot harder to settle and there have been some heartbreaking stories of failed homings.

Considering their past, these two dogs are doing brilliantly. They get on very well together. The problems their humans are finding manifest themselves out on walks. Both are reactive to people and dogs. In order to make further progress the people need to do things a little differently. If they carry on the same, so will the dogs.

Romanian Holly is a little aloof, but is polite and confident in the house though reactive to dogs outside. Interestingly, she is absolutely fine with other dogs when away from home, so it seems she is being more territorial than fearful. The main barker from inside the house, she is allowed free access to upstairs window where she can bark at passing dogs. She is merely practising the unwanted behaviour and getting better at it.

Berry, on the other hand, is much more excitable in general and reactive to all people and dogs; she is alarmed if anything appears suddenly or looks unfamiliar, irrespective of where this happens to be.

Both are very clever dogs and Berry in particular, who is much more wired up than Holly, needs more controlled stimulation but also better defined boundaries – especially when out. Repeatedly throwing a stick isn’t enough (throwing sticks is dangerous).

In order to keep their dogs focussed on them when out, their humans need to be more relevant to them – starting in the home. At present the dogs probably feel that they are the main decision-makers. The decision-making and protection side of things needs to be the responsibility of ‘mum and dad’, and needs to be in place before they can expect to successfully convince their dogs that they also have this role outside when faced with perceived threats.

The humans need to be a lot more involved, proactive and relevant in the face of things that the dogs are wary of – particularly if the dog is on a lead.  They need to make themselves irresistible (food/fun/action/attention).  Tightly holding the lead makes things worse. Forcing the dog to sit can make things worse. Avoiding situations altogether is useless.

They need to avoid pushing the dog over her comfort threshold and work at it. Using this method, that threshold will gradually diminish.

German Shepherd. Failed Police Dog

Cora is a failed police dog

Cora

German Shepherd Cora is a four-year-old ‘failed’ police dog. Who knows what her puppyhood was and what essential socialising she missed out on?

Like so many German Shepherds I go to, she is reactive to people coming to the house though she settles quickly. She is also very wary and barks at anything that worries her – and a lot does worry her: people who look different when out, new objects in different places, anything sudden, other dogs when she is on lead, vacuum cleaner, fireworks, the neighbours. The list goes on.

She lives with young Wheaten Terrier, Molly, who a couple of times has received the fallout as Cora redirects her stress onto her and they end up fighting. Molly herself is quite good also at winding Cora up and a couple of fights have been over bones. She, too, is a barker – particularly indoors at every little thing she hears. Understandably, the neighbours aren’t happy.

Wheaten Terrier Molly barks at everything she hears

Molly

Our starting point is to calm everything down in every way possible. The barking needs to be addressed. Telling a dog to be quiet when barking at sounds outside may stop her briefly but it does nothing to resolve the problem. Holding a frantic, barking dog on a tight lead does nothing to teach the dog to be chilled around other dogs, traffic and approaching people.

Cora’s owner admits that had she known just what she would be like she wouldn’t have taken her on, but they love her and are now fully committed to do all they can to give her a good life – to help her to become more relaxed so that eventually they can enjoy walks, take the dogs camping and be confident that there will be no more fights.

Reactive to Traffic, Horses, People, Dogs

Here is beautiful Jack, the 8-year-old Doberman Mix I visited about five weeks ago.Jack is anxious and wary

Everything at home has been going brilliantly, but I received a message saying that Jack was getting worse on walks – even more reactive to people, traffic, dogs, horses and other things – hackles up, rearing and barking. He might even  go on strike. They felt he was being stubborn.

I know that if it’s being approached the right way – with some enthusiasm, and if people realise it can take a long time (not just days or even weeks) things always gradually improve. So, today I went to see them again.

This is what they were finding: Originally they were using a Halti and the only way they could get Jack past things was by using force. With the new harness I recommended he had more choice in the matter, and he was digging his heels in and refusing to budge. The gentleman could not inspire Jack – which isn’t surprising because he himself wasn’t inspired. Out in the street Jack seemed worse. He could barely hold him when dogs or horses appeared.

This is what we did: Already in place should be Loose Lead walking, practised somewhere quiet like the garden (see my demo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag9AMjJxJa8 ).

After our half-hour session this morning Jack is already a different dog. He wasn’t stubborn, he was scared.  For starters I enjoy walking back and forth and communicating with the dog. To me it is a pleasure, not a bore. I do my level best to inspire the dog. I keep him busy. I do all the decision-making. He can rely upon me. You can see the progress in Jack’s body language from the first picture to the last as the gentleman copies what I did.

1) With his harness and lead attached at the chest, I tried walking him around the house. It was difficult to get him to move, and although I succeeded with a lot of encouragement, silly noises and effort, his tail was down. His ears were back. He was licking his lips. He was worried.

2) I took him to the front door but only when he was ready to come willingly, and opened it. We didn’t go out immediately – just stood there, waiting for him to relax. The lady and gentleman stayed behind in the hallway, watching. I then stepped out a couple of steps, turned around with a bit of verbal encouragement and walked straight back in through the door again. I must have done this about ten times. Now Jack was visibly relaxing – particularly as there had been nothing other than a passing car to worry about and he barely looked at it. He was beginning to trust me – just a little.

3. I now stepped out a little bit further – out beyond the driveway, and we walked back and forth within a radius of about five metres, going back indoors several times. He had started off looking very much like the top two pictures, watchful and wary. Head down. I stopped and let him look about. I turned and went back indoors and then tried again. Over and over. He began to relax – as in the third photo. I wasn’t making him confront anything that worried him. He was beginning to trust me just a little bit more..

4. Now he was ready to be pushed a little further, whilst remaining within his comfort zone. Some people were walking towards us – about two hundred yards away. Jack clocked them and I turned around and walked back indoors – then came straight back out again. They were nearer now and again I kept Jack busy, I turned away and then turned back again – all the time watching very carefully for any deterioration in his confidence. At the first sign of his fixating on anything, we turned away. By the time we finished the people were walking into a house across the road and Jack had stopped looking at them. TIP: It may help to walk into the dog to get him to turn away as you will physically be moving his head around. For instance, if he’s walked on the left, instead of turning right which is more natural, turn to the left and walk around him, bringing him with you.

5. Now I advanced a little further away and Jack stopped for some serious sniffing in grass. A good sign! A dog in a panic doesn’t stop to sniff the grass. I waited for him to be ready to move again and as we walked back to the house we heard horses down beyond a bend in the road – probably only a hundred yards away. Again, I kept Jack busy, kept his attention on me, and walked him into the house. I turned straight back out again and at the end of the driveway the horses were now visible. Keeping busy, I didn’t stop. I turned around and walked back in. We stayed in as the horses passed, he wasn’t ready for that, and I fed him little treats while he listened to the clip clop as they walked by  – quite calm – in order for him to associate his not reacting to horses with something pleasant. TIP: If you are by the open door or gate working on passing horses, dogs etc., hook the lead around the handle so that you can relax and everyone is safe, just in case you have misjudged it and he panics.

6. I then took him out again, keeping him busy and changing direction. He was wanting to walk now – much happier (as in the final piJack is feeling a lot more confident and the lead is loosecture). No more putting on the anchors. However, I wasn’t to be pulled. I was the one making the decisions, so we did some turning and going the other way and then started down the road opposite – the road where he knew several dogs lived. The enemies. Being Sunday morning none had actually come out which gave us a good opportunity to make progress, but Jack seemed quite chilled. He was even relaxed when cars splashed through puddles – something he normally hated – and when a loud fast car drove towards us. Then the heavens opened and we called it a day!

All this needs to be done daily, always keeping within his comfort zone whilst also pushing ahead, advance-retreat, advance-retreat.

Although no other dogs appeared, it’s exactly the same process as for horses and people. Owners so often get disheartened after a couple of weeks or even months, simply not appreciating the time it can take. The two vital ingredients are patience and enthusiasm. Meanwhile, for exercise and mental stimulation they can pop him in the car and take him somewhere open on a long line (his recall isn’t good yet) where there are unlikely to be horses and dogs.

Just see how much more confidently Jack is already walking in the final picture, after some inspiring work with the gentleman.

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

Mastiff Mix Can’t Be Walked

English Mastiff cross is well behaved and calm in the houseOlive is a cross between an English Mastiff and probably a Rottweiler. She is a lovely girl – gentle and biddable at home – perhaps a bit anxious sometimes. She is especially anxious around other dogs and due to her weight and power she has not had any walks now for eighteen months.

Her people have been pulled over, and uncontrolled she is a danger to dogs and people that she feels she needs to ‘see off’.

Giving her no walks, even if she has lots of exercise and a large garden, creates another problem. One sees city dogs who are so habituated to people, noise, traffic and other dogs that they ignore them completely. Outside the gate Olive will be on sensory overload with all the smells, sounds and passers-by, both humans and dogs. However much preparation is done beforehand at home, it would be unreasonable to expect Olive to be calm without a good deal of desensitisation.

The family will need to tighten up their leadership skills in the house – there isn’t much to do because Olive and her companion, an Akita called Tokyo, are very good dogs. She needs to have faith in her owners as the decision-makers and protectors. The technique of loose-lead walking will need to be perfected in a safe and non-stimulating environment – the garden. Olive then needs to be no further than just outside the front, standing still, sniffing, watching, with a handler who knows exactly the best way to react as soon as something starts to upset her.

She will need lots and lots of very short exposures to the outside world, very gradually increasing in intensity only as and when she is ready, with the support of a person who knows exactly how to react when a dog or person approaches.

Olive’s life will then start to become more fulfilling. Bless her.

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

Cane Corso’s Protective Instinct

Cane Corso had been in rescue for fourteen monthsA Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) was bred to guard the property and hunt. Taken into a family home, she is bound to be a challenge as Brooke’s original owners probably found out. She had been in the care of a rescue organisation for fourteen months before coming to her new home. She is now three years old.

It’s not surprising that, due to a mixed past and her genetic inheritance that she is suspicious of strangers and dogs. Suspicious implies fearful and protective.

Brooke’s new owners knew what they were taking on four or so months ago. They have already made terrific progress. They know that there is still a long way to go, particularly where Brooke’s encountering people, dogs, traffic, bikes and so on is concerned. They can’t predict what her response will be.

After one unfortunate incident when someone came to the house, they are also very careful to train their visitors!

I am making Brooke sound like a difficult and touchy dog, but for the most part this isn’t the case. She is highly intelligent, loving and gentle with the people she knows. I found her friendly and biddable.

A dog like this makes a nonsense of ‘dominance’ techniques (confronting a dog, facing or pinning it down to ‘show who is boss’). That would be the fast track to a nasty bite and a dangerous dog. Fortunately Brooke’s owners would not consder doing these things, but in some respects they are not clear what they should be doing.

Effective leadership has nothing to do with dominating, though it does mean making decisions and standing firm; encouraging a dog to be respectful where our own personal space is concerned – especially a dog of such strength and power.

Leadership is about consistency, calmness and confidence. Most dogs are predisposed to wanting to please their humans, so we tap into this. We cut down on confrontational commands and enlist her cooperation with encouragement and reward. Whilst demonstrating to Brooke that her warnings of danger are valued, actually dealing with the danger is not her job – it is that of the leaders. Brooke should be ‘off duty’ and trusting her humans to see to things – especially when out on walks where, on lead, effectively she is trapped.  She is trapped, attached to someone who is nervous and worried, who may not react as a leader should in the eyes of a dog when encountering things she perceives as a threat. It is no wonder an already protective breed can go into full guarding mode.

Leaders are not nervous or worried. Leaders are decisive. It’s a sign of strength and not weakness to walk away from possible trouble.

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