Adolescent Cockerpoo Knows Her People Have a Breaking Point!

cockerpooIzzyLittle fourteen-month-old Cockerpoo Izzy (on the left) knows if she barks for long enough she will eventually find her people’s breaking point and get the attention she wants, that if she scratches at the back door someone will open it immediately each time, if she jumps up at people it guarantees attention of some sort – every time. It’s important she stops jumping up, because the people have lots of children coming to their house.

She is a gorgeous little dog with a wonderful personality, and plenty of it! I have had special training in this line of behaviour from my own Cocker Spaniel, Pickle. No amount of book-learning or education can teach how to deal with this sort of thing as well as hands on experience with ones own dog. I call it ‘Pickling’ – constantly looking for something to do and noisily pestering to get what he wants – given a chance. One thing that is a complete waste of time is to get cross! Pickle has now mostly learnt that good behaviour along with plenty to keep him busy gets the best results, but it has been quite a learning curve for me and I appreciate how difficult it is getting other people on board so they don’t sabotage my efforts!

Just like Pickle, Izzy is loving, soft and gentle – an absolute darling.

I put my experience to good use and soon had Izzy like putty in my hands! She was really focused on me. Never had they had such a calm and quiet evening. We showed her why it was far nicer to have her feet on the floor. It was like a little dance. She put her feet on me – I gently tipped her off and looked away – her feet went back on the floor – I tickled her chest gently. Clever little dog then worked it out that she still was rewarded for jumping up, but it was part of a chain  – she still got her attention in the end so I didn’t reward her each time. Then I started to ignore her and wait for her to work it out and get down by herself. She sat down. BINGO.  Soon you could see she was thinking about putting her feet up on me but not doing it, and sitting down instead! Food Reward!

Intermittently she went back to pestering to be let out, which we ignored. When she gave up I opened the door.  As I suspected, she didn’t want to go outside – just someone to jump up at her bidding – especially when they are busy doing something else, like eating, talking, watching TV or on the phone. I know all the tricks – Pickle has taught me!

The most exasperating problem of all is that Izzy barks persistently until she gets what she wants, and although she didn’t do this when I was there directing operations, she has to learn that barking, also, doesn’t get results. Never. Dogs do what works, even if it only works sometimes. They may even have to walk out on her and shut the door when she starts. Barking that never gets results is a waste of time. The important flip-side to this is they must instigate attention and fun things more regularly themselves – when she’s quiet.

She needs lots of praise for doing the right things, but not so much that it fires her up again. A benefit that will filter down from her gentleman owner being less of a pushover at home is she will take more notice of him when they are out and he wants to call her back to him.

Re-Visit to Hungarian Viszla Puppy

ViszlaZoliZoli, the Hungarian Viszla puppy I first went to when he was ten weeks old, is now seven months! What a handsome boy! This is him at ten weeks old:

His people have followed a lot of my advice and he is becoming a well-mannered dog with great progress in most respects. It is so much easier if you start off correctly, and he was certainly a handful at ten weeks!

There are two areas where he’s not doing so well. One is jumping up – but that is due to lack of consistency on behalf of the family. If it gets him a result just one time in ten, it’s worth doing! That’s why people play slot machines after all.

The other area is one where they have unfortunately abandoned my advice – walking. He is on a short lead and collar, very excited and pulling down the road, constantly being corrected or held beside them through their strength. All this teaches Zoli that pulling works – because he gets there in the end.

By now, if they had stuck to the plan and used the right equipment, he should be walking on a loose lead like there is no lead at all. People get confused between ‘heel’ walking and ‘loose lead’ walking. Apart from in the show ring and maybe busy streets, I myself can’t see any benefit at all in walking strictly to heel. The dog should walk near to the person because he wants to, not because he’s being forced to. It is all part of the bond of trust and respect that should be growing between them.

I demonstrated the method in the kitchen – admittedly there were none of the distractions of the outside world. He walked around with me like a lamb.

Walks need to start off right – calmly – with walking around house and garden and shouldn’t progress until the lead is loose. It really is a case of ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. They will need to abandon their current ideas about walks for a few days or even weeks, but the work is so well worth it in the end – a dog that doesn’t mug people or refuse to come back unless he feels like it. As adolescence takes hold – it won’t be going in the right direction unless his people take control of his freedom – and it’s granted in a controlled way rather encouraging him to freelance.

Problems on Walks

Heather is a beautiful Collie Retriever crossThese three things – pulling on lead, being reactive to other dogs and unreliable recall usually all go together. One seldom sees a dog that is walking calmly on a slack lead who is also on the alert for other dogs. A calm dog would have a certain relationship with the walker or owner – to do with respect and trust. This calm dog would be more likely to come back when called.

Heather, probably a cross between a Collie and some sort of Retriever, really is the model dog most of the time. It is her behaviour outside which lets her down. At home she is a polite dog, not pushy but not wanting too much touching and cuddling, but in a subtle way she rules the roost. She is, understandably, adored. Four young adults live in the house and all pay her homage! She has her owners working for her – doing things her way. They need to start to get her working for them instead! So long as dogs know what is required of them, they love this.

I demonstrated in the house how to get Heather following or walking beside me all over the place, longish lead completely loose. She was very happy with it. This exercise demonstrates the kind of relationship between dog and handler better than anything else. Initially most dogs will do this calmly for me but not for their owners. It is to do with how I have been behaving towards the dog from the moment I entered the house. She wants to work for me. This is the reason the owners need training as much as, if not more than the dog!

If they apply themselves Heather will soon be walking beautifully – relaxed and happy. They will know exactly how to react when they see another dog – but only if they need to. They will also work on Heather’s recall – and this will improve if in the house when they ask her to do something they only need to ask once – and they follow through. They should be sparing in their demands on her, but when they do ask her to do something, mean it.

If she ignores them at home – is it likely she will take note of them when they are out?

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

Rolo Won’t Come Back When Called

Chocolate Sabrador may stand and stare when asked to do somethingRolo is a stable and confident Chocolate Labrador, two years of age, and a great family pet.

Rolo is also a law unto himself! This isn’t too important at home, but it has become very important out on walks where he refuses to come back until he is ready – this can be a long time. He likes to freelance, which involves playing with any dog he can find, chasing off after distant dogs, and jumping up all over people. He also may lie down and go on strike if they’re not going in the direction he chooses. Consequently he is no longer let off lead.

He has been to training classes for eighteen months, so it’s not that he doesn’t understand what ‘Come’ means. It is that he chooses not to!

At home I soon noticed that he quietly did his own thing when called. He doesn’t come eagerly or promptly. He may simply look and walk away, he may stand and stare as if to say ‘try again’ or he may go and fetch something first. When I called him and he slowly came, he stood back a little so I had to lean to him and this is not because he’s shy! If he can get all the attention he wants anyway, when he wants it, there is little incentive for him to come when asked.

Good recall when out needs to start at home. It is not likely that he will come back when out with all the exciting distractions if when he is called from across the room he simply walks away!

The family need to learn to be more relevant. This is nothing to do with love, but respect. He needs to earn some of their attention. They need to show him that if they call him it is once only, and then after that if he wanders up in his own good time saying ‘I’m ready now’, their reaction is ‘Sorry, too late’. He also needs to learn that coming running immediately is going to be rewarding.

Only with the homework in place will they be ready to start on outdoor recall. Freedom is a thing for the future. There must be no more opportunities to practise freelancing.

With a structured plan in place, patiently working for weeks or even months until recall when called or whistled is automatic and programmed into him, against a background of work at home, Rolo should be ready to be let off lead. He should end up being a joy to walk.

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

Young Labrador ‘Won’t Listen’.

Two Golden Labradors lying togetherTwo beautiful Golden Labradors. Roxy nearly six months old and Lola is four.

As a puppy, Lola was taken to puppy classes so is the better ‘trained’ of the two, but she is nervous. Roxy is a lot more confident and is already trying to dominate Lola. She can be pushy, jump up and be generally annoying as a puppy entering adolescence can be! They may tell her to stop jumping up, to sit, to go away when they are eating, or to come back when she is off lead, but she won’t ‘listen’.

The real problems are out on walks. Both dogs pull – Roxy especially. Her recall is very unreliable as is that of many a pup and possibly they are expecting too much here. Whilst some dogs come back willingly from the word go, with many dogs recall has to be worked on for a long time before the dog can be reliably trusted to come back if there is something else she would rather be doing, like chasing cats or going after other dogs.

What is bringing matters to a head is Roxy’s behaviour when she sees other dogs.  She will run up to them barking, backed up by Lola who has begun to snap and growl at them – something she never used to do before Roxy came. It seems to be getting worse. I am wondering whether Roxy thinks she is protecting Lola, while Lola thinks she is protecting Roxy! Either way, the person with them is not relevant as decision-maker and protector.

Whilst Roxy and Lola get on very well, it seems that having Roxy hasn’t been altogether easy for Lola. Already sensitive, she now has become protective of her. For her to try to keep Roxy in check is an impossible task. I am worried that as Roxy grows older, more determined and dominant, and that if the owners don’t give stronger leadership, there could be trouble between the two dogs.

Walking needs to be brought back to basics. The dogs need to be walking calmly on loose leads without the need for checking – which often simply isn’t achieved by traditional training methods – Lola is proof of that.  When they encounter other dogs, they need to keep calm and rely on the person walking them to make the decisions.  When off lead, the owners may feel that the dogs should come back when they are called, but in these situations they simply are not sufficiently relevant. We lack relevance when we are at our dogs’ beck and call and touch them every time they come near us. If our time and attention is readily on tap and never has to be earned, it lacks value.

The humans need to earn that relevance throughout all aspects of their life with their dogs – and then the dogs, Roxy in particular, will start to ‘listen’.

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

Losing Confidence in Your Dog

TwoLabradorsHere the two lovely three-year-old Labradors are sitting so obediently while I take their photo! They are brother and sister, though you would never think so to look at them. It would be hard to find any problem with either dog had it not been for a couple of unfortunate incidents.

Archie, the Chocolate Labrador, is the more laid back of the two. Both are model dogs – most of the time. They have a wonderful life with a caring family and four lovely children. Belle’s personality is more ‘edgy’ and excitable than Archie’s. On two occasions she has attacked a puppy.  When she meets another dog she will bark in a protective way whilst standing in front of her owners. Though the dogs are seldom walked on lead as they live in the countryside, Belle is also very nervous of many things if walked on lead on the street, lunging and barking.

The first troubling incident happened about a year ago. They met a lady with several dogs off lead on a walk. Because it looked as though Belle in particular was getting overwhelmed by a very pushy five-month-old puppy, my lady client, her friend and their dogs tried to turn the other way – but the other dogs followed them, ignoring their owner’s whistle.  The puppy was jumping all over Belle still, and I believe that Belle was provoked and pestered beyond her endurance, and having repeatedly warned and been ignored she turned on the puppy. This resulted in quite an ugly exchange with the other owner and a vet bill, which really unnerved my poor client. Had the other dogs had the sort of reliable recall you need if you are responsibly going to let your dogs off lead and had Belle been less touchy, none of this would have happened.

The second incident was a week ago. Belle went for another puppy on their own land. Apparently she simply saw the puppy from a distance and came running over and attacked it, seemingly for no reason at all. Fortunately there was minimal damage and Belle was grabbed.

The outcome is that the poor lady can no longer trust her lovely dog. She has stopped walking them off her land, although her husband still does so but on lead. She has now attacked puppies twice and who knows what might happen next time.

Most walks consist of going straight out of a gate and into woods, off lead. The dogs tend to do their own thing, checking up on where the owners are from time to time. They freelance.  The dogs’ default position when they are out should be near to their owners (leaders).  At present it is the opposite.  Whenever a dog appears, they should immediately come back when called, and then it’s the owners decision whether or not they go and play.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and one can see how both these incidents could have been prevented, the first by grabbing the lady’s puppy immediately and the second by not assuming she will appreciate dogs she doesn’t know in her territory. I suspect they were both one-off unfortunate incidents, but certainly over all leadership where Belle is concerned is essential so that she doesn’t carry the burden of protection duty.

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

A Wirehaired Vizsla and a Weimeraner

Wemerana Lulu and teritorial barking




What a wonderful looking pair.

There are a few minor issues to fix, but the main aims of my visit are to control Weimaraner Lulu’s territorial barking and hunting – for her to have reliable recall.

At present the dogs run freely off lead a lot of the time, so the price the owners would need to pay in terms of training and restricting Lulu’s freedom is probably not worth the gain in their eyes, and they may need to settle for the compromise of ‘much better recall’, or on lead only if unsafe! When she sights a deer or a hare, without intensive long line work over a long period of time, they don’t stand a hope of getting her back. She has practised freelancing and hunting for a long time and has an extremely strong Weimaraner prey drive.

They live in a lovely house overlooking fields – ideal for Lulu’s sharp eyesight and keen hearing to spot animals or people in the distance resulting in a lot of barking. She has leapt the fence in the past. Some management solutions will help to a degree – including enclosing part of the garden.

Both dogs have been to obedience classes but obedience training doesn’t necessarily mean an obedient dog, or that the dog won’t choose to disobey a command!

The owners believed that Lulu ran the roost, but I saw it a little differently. In his quiet way Viszla Hugo shares the job. He mainly lets Lulu take responsibility for territorial stuff, but he has other tricks. He is protective of his personal space whilst not particularly respecting that of others. He plays games over food – controlling Lulu. He uses his ball to get people to repeatedly jump to his bidding and throw it whilst not letting them touch him. Because Lulu is more hyper, this disturbs him; he may try to control her by humping her, or he may get very worried if her stress levels get out of hand or cause the owners to get cross with her. Their toddler is a bit vulnerable when Lulu jumps over him or pushes past him to frantically chase or bark at something.

So once again it is a leadership issue. From early morning Lulu whines to get them up – and in order to stop her they go to her for fear of waking the baby – proving to her that whining works. She makes it very hard to get her collar and lead on before walks. As I said, a mix of more minor issues, but they all contribute to the overall situation where Lulu in particular ignores what she is being asked to do, her noisy territorial behaviour is causing them problems, she is stressed, and calmer Hugo is a worrier.

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

Two Sides to Doberman Ruby

Ruby is the model dog indoorsRuby’s owners have been living the sort of nightmare that would be a dog owners’ worst dream. She has never been good with other dogs, but one day a couple of months ago she killed an elderly Sheltie. One can only imagine what this must have been like for his owner. The repercussions have been huge, involving the police, the council and a local petition to have Ruby put down. The owners are conscientious dog owners and they are devastated. They now walk Ruby on lead only apart from one special place where they have never seen other dogs, and she is then muzzled. She is even muzzled from the house to the car – just in case.

At home, apart from a short bout of wary guard barking when someone arrives, Ruby is the model dog indoors. She is extremely well behaved and peaceful, if aloof. In her quiet way she politely rules the roost, which dog owners often can’t see for themselves when they are living in the middle of it. Once out of the door however, Ruby becomes a different dog. She believes she should decide where to go and she pulls ahead. She believes she is the one on protection duty. She is ready to see off any other dog and I fear in the case of the little Sheltie because he froze, Ruby dealt with him as she saw fit. It could have been exacerbated by the human panic from both owners rushing at her and shouting, as Ruby stood over him. She believes anything that moves is prey for her to hunt.

Ruby is now seven years old and came to live with them at the age of three;  the damage will probably have been done already. Whilst they are doing everything they can to play safe for the sake of any other dogs they may meet and also for Ruby herself, they have now called me out to do something about the root of the problem – controlling Ruby’s prey drive, protectiveness and freelancing. She makes the decisions – so once again it is a leadership (dog ‘parenting’) issue.

Ruby’s owners are prepared to do whatever it takes, and realise that there is no quick fix. Leadership starts at home. If ‘her ladyship’ is selective about coming over to them in the house whilst always getting any attention she wants on her own terms, why would she take much notice of them when called if she has another dog in view or a rabbit to chase?

What we are looking to achieve in the end is for Ruby to be trustworthy so far as taking no notice of other dogs, and to focus on them instead which will require bomb-proof recall. ‘Socialising’ is unrealistic.

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

A Clumber Spaniel and a Bulldog

clumber spanielWhen I visited these two dogs today I expected the problem to be the Clumber Spaniel Casper, one year of age, jumping up, mouthing and generally too excitable. What I actually ‘read’ from the dogs when I got there was a different story altogether.  OK, Casper did jump up, but with zero reinforcement that should be easy to stop given time. He was very excited and jumpy initially, but within quite a short time of getting nothing out of it at all from me, he was the model of a calm well-behaved dog (with just the occasional lapse to make sure!).

No, the real poblems were their ‘play’ together escalating too quickly into something that could turn nasty, and Casper’s recall not being reliable enough when they met other people (whom he wanted to jump all over!). The reason soon became apparent. He was being subtly intimidated by Roxy, the bulldog.

They had thought that it was Casper who goaded Roxy into play, but it started off several times while I was there – mostly when the dogs became a little stirred up by either somebody getting up and moving about, or something outside to bark at, or even when Roxy wanted attention and couldn’t get it. They hadn’t recognised it, but it’s Roxy who is the initiator. She stared at Casper who tried to ignore her. She then pushed her bulldoggy nose onto him. Then she would stand back and wait for her tactics to take effect and Casper to fire up.  I never actually saw it get further than this to the stage where Casper was pushed to retaliate because it didn’t feel quite ‘right’, so I stepped in just as another dog would, in silence splitting them up before it got any further.

It was impossible to ask Casper to come, sit or lie down because he has to defer to Roxy who may be either in the way or eyeballing him. If they are given bones, it has to be three, because Roxy has to take Casper’s and can only cope with two! On a walk, Casper is less likely to come back if Roxy is in the way or if she is somewhere else. When they hear a noise, Roxy again is the initiator. One single bark is enough to start Casper off while he looks around anxiously to see what on earth he is meant to be barking at! I suspect some of Caspers excitability is due to stress caused by being torn between Roxy’s controlling behaviour and his wanting to cooperate with the owners. To me he appeared a little anxious – trying to obey Roxy whilst pleasing them.

With Roxy being relieved of her duties in the kindest way, with Casper learning that nobody, ever, reinforces his jumping up, and by working on his recall so that when they do meet people on walks he looks to them, not Roxy, and comes back rather than rushing up leaping all over them, life for everyone will be easier.

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

Chasing Sheep

CockerpooBeing indoors with Bertie, Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross (Cockerpoo), it is hard to image him running off on a walk to worry sheep, or turning up chased by a farmer and with blood all over him. If the farmer had had a gun, Berite would now be dead.

He looks like pure Cocker, though there must be Poodle in there somewhere. He has a sweet temperament and is very obedient in the house. His owners have been very conscientious and thoughtful in training him.

Bertie is an example of ‘outside in’ versus ‘inside out’. His actions are largely regulated by human commands which means, at the end of the day and out on a walk with sheep about, he has the option of ignoring their calls for him to come back.

Encouraging Bertie to work out for himself what’s required, without commands, is the theme that needs to run through his daily life at home. He will also need to learn that whatever commands/requests are made of him, they are given once only.

As soon as the lead comes out Bertie changes into a different dog. He is very excited and pulls out of the gate. He has to be held back and corrected as he walks down the road. Off lead his recall is excellent – so long as he wants to come back and there is nothing else he would rather do.

Basic lead work so that they have an attentive dog is a must in the first instance. The owners need to work on making walking and being with them a joy, because a tight lead and constant correction can’t make being with them very rewarding. He needs to be walking by them nicely because he wants to (‘inside out’) not through force (‘outside in’).  He should have little or no freedom from a long line until he is conditioned to coming back straight away, pronto, no second call – whatever the distraction. Work will be done beside fields with sheep.

Recall relies upon a command. Giving a command always gives the option for refusal. Conditioning Bertie to come instantly to a whistle instead, making a whistle a prompt for him to automatically react by returning immediately, is going to be the way forward.

This could take months. Having now chased sheep twice, the second time ending in blood, Bertie is not going to stop now without some serious hard work.

A dog denied off lead freedom for as long as it takes is better than a dead dog.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.