Gun dog. Easing off the training, giving him choices.

Gun dog Black Lab Bentley is extremely well-behaved and polite, an absolute delight.

The young dog seems, however, careful. He follows anyone who gets up to walk about, looking worried. He can be jumpy.

Gun dog training

gun dogHis young lady owner is very conscientious indeed. She is keen to make a good gun dog out of him and is very disciplined with the training. Each family member helps her by walking him and they are well-trained too – very keen to help. All walks include training sessions.

The girl voiced concern that if she follows my behaviour route, Bentley’s training may go downhill.  I suspect that easing right back on the gun dog training and giving Bentley more choice will instead enhance their training sessions.

Continue reading…

Irresponsible Dog Owners and Off-Leash Dogs

I feel exasperated.

Yet again I have been to a dog that has been attacked not once, but three times in as many weeks, by off lead dogs that are not under control. 

Once again, it is irresponsible dog owners at fault.

irresponsible dog owners spoil life for herTheir dogs, as always, are just being dogs.

Dear Little Jack Russell Annie, now nine, was re-homed with my young lady client about ten weeks ago. There was no history of trouble with other dogs.

The lady walked her without incident for a week and she interacted fine with other dogs.

Then everything changed.

Annie was being walked on lead in the nearby field as usual – the lady didn’t trust her to come back yet. There were several off-lead dogs about.

A dog went for her.

Two weeks later, in the same field, another dog attacked her. The injuries to her face required a visit to the vet. As if that wasn’t enough, a third went for her a few days later causing another injury.

The young lady was now very anxious.

They were walking down the street, approaching a dog. She tightened the lead. This time Annie had a pop at the dog on the way past.

The lady was now given advice, ‘let her off lead and she will be fine’. This demonstrates the danger of giving advice with insufficient research.

In the same field, there were several dogs running around. The girl removed Annie’s lead.

Annie straight away went for another dog, presumably on the defensive, getting it before it could get her. With no lead, she couldn’t be caught.

Those three irresponsible dog owners’ dogs that have ‘infected’ Annie with reactivity, themselves may well have had similar things happening to them in the past. Other dogs may well have scared them or injured them.

Responsible owners only let their dogs off lead if their recall is good. They don’t to let them off at all if they can’t be trusted with other dogs.

There has been recent uproar where my local council has ruled that all dogs must be kept on lead in a large popular country park. I think it’s a good thing. There must be somewhere that dogs like Annie can be walked, on lead, in safety. 

Little Annie now needs to be rehabilitated and this could take a long time.

The young lady is distraught. She feels guilty for letting it happen although there was no way a novice dog owner could have prevented it.

She homed Annie dreaming of long walks and cottage holidays with her rescue dog. Instead she has work to do.

She will have to be very selective where she walks while she works on it. I wrote this blog on the subject.

Of course, in my local park with the off-lead ban, there are still those irresponsible dog owners who ignore it.

They love to see their dog running free. Isn’t it his right?

I’m Alright Jack

It is also the right of other dogs to enjoy the countryside unmolested and not intimidated or, worse still, injured.

What is wrong with a long line on a harness? It may be inconvenient, but managing a long line is an art. People can learn to be a sort of human flexilead and not get into a tangle.

Not contaminating another generation of dogs with dog to dog reactivity is a moral duty.

I no doubt will continue to bang on about this and nothing will change.

Four weeks have gone by: “… wanted to send you this as this is the first time since I have had her that she seems so happy at mine. ….. It really cheered me up last night that she was like this. 
From an email two months later: … As soon as (the dog) passed I immediately continued on our way. She calmed very quickly and accepted a treat. …. It also made me realise how far she had come as previously see would have reacted the first time she saw it and been howling when it got close to us. She had never previously let a dog get that close without reacting.
This progress has continued on walks since. She seems happier on walks, pulls a lot less, and regularly wears a ‘smile’ on her face. We approach dogs fairly regularly and only turning around when they are close. The other day we were able to follow a dog within 2 metres of us although we were on the other side of the road. This continued for a good minute before she decided to show any reaction. She was aware of it and the dog had turned on a couple of occasions to us.
I really appreciate all your help and finally am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel…. I am aware this is a long process and a journey we will be on for a while. I am realistic about how much we will achieve with her but am optimistic about the future even if it means she is always on a lead on walks. I am feeling positive enough to start looking for holiday cottages for the two of us in the summer again.
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 Annie. 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)

Nervous Dog on Walks. Work Begins at Home

The story of Indie, a nervous dog I met yesterday, is a very common one. Her behaviour illustrates my belief that reactivity due to fearfulness out on walks has roots at home too.

Concentrating solely on walks is missing a big part of the picture.

nervous dogIndie is generally a nervous dog. She reacts when dogs get too near – but it’s not all dogs, not every time and not in every location. It’s variable. Near to her home she is worse.

On walks they will now do all the usual things that I advise.

However, a nervous dog that is fearfully reactive to other dogs on walks, is not fearful in a vacuum. It’s very seldom like a switch is flicked as soon as the dogs leaves the house, changing a calm, confident indoor dog to a nervous dog, jumpy that is wary out on walks.

We looked at her general stress levels. Each thing she is reactive to – and this can be over-excited or fearful – that sends her stress levels soaring.

This ‘trigger stacking’ is cumulative.

If her stress levels are near overflowing before even leaving the house, how will she cope when encountering another dog?

She has a routine ten-minute walk every morning and this is the most stressful walk of the day, the one when they meet the most dogs. This isn’t a good way to start her day. The stress that has managed to drain during the peaceful night will immediately be topped up again.

They will abandon that walk for now and Indie can go out in the garden. She has her main walk later in the day and that will be better controlled in order to help her.

If Indie is able to see passing dogs from windows or from the garden she will bark. She is rehearsing the behaviour they don’t want. What’s more, the passing dog will always move away so – success!

They will block her view where possible. They will help her out when she hears and barks at a barking dog, either the neghbour’s or a more distant dog, associating it with something she likes. She’s a Labrador so that will be food! (Spraying a nervous dog with water may scare her out of barking but will have the opposite effect to what they want).

At home the teenage daughter can be calmer with her, no more deliberately stirring her up because the dog seems to enjoy it. She will abandon rough and tumble type play and replace with more controlled play.

Even food can affect the dog’s mental state, so they will look into that too.

Recently there was a report about the link between some dogs going prematurely grey around the muzzle and hyperactivity or nervousness. Eight-year-old Indie’s muzzle started to go grey years ago.

 

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 Indie. 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 fear 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)