Redirects Frustration. Can’t Reach Cat, Turns on Owner.

Redirects frustration

Letting sleeping dogs lie

Lurcher Rufus is a wonderful dog whose only problems are as a result of over-arousal. He then redirects frustration, using his teeth.

The two-year-old had been picked up, abandoned, eight months ago and has settled into his new life beautifully.

A lovely, friendly dog, he’s confident and curious. Rufus can get very excited when he sees people. He was unusually calm when I arrived – but I didn’t fire him up! He sniffed me thoroughly and gave me a little ‘kiss’ in the ear. I began to respond with some attention and he quickly became excited. I felt his mouth on my hand.

His lady and gentleman are finding it hard to stop him mouthing their hands and their arms – sometimes quite roughly. The more aroused he becomes, the rougher he gets.

Rufus redirects frustration using his teeth.

If he’s not getting attention, he will demand it using his mouth. If he is thwarted or ignored, he redirects frustration using his teeth.

The biggest problem however is cats! Their house is surrounded by cats that seem hell-bent on winding up Rufus. He may be controllable past one or two, but by the time he’s encountered the third that may be waiting in his drive as they arrive back home from a walk, his chase instinct is in full gear.

The other day when he lunged at a cat, his lady owner held on as tightly as she could. Rufus’ head swung round and she received a nasty bite on her arm.

Holding on tightly with a harness that tightens as he pulls may save the day at the time, but isn’t a way to change the behaviour of a dog that redirects frustration onto you. The frustration itself has to be addressed and this takes time. The people themselves must be able to get and hold their dog’s attention, taking action before he gets anywhere near this state of arousal.

This is easy to say, but not always so easy to put into practice.

Better equipment will give better control.

The first thing they will do is to get a harness where a longer lead can hook both front and back. They will then have more control in emergency and the dog will be more comfortable. Then they should keep those walks near home where they may encounter cats very short indeed to avoid ‘trigger stacking’. This is where his stress and excitement builds up until he explodes and he redirects frustration onto the person holding the short lead.

Instead of being held tight, the dog actually needs to feel free while they work on their own relevance and teaching him behaviours that are incompatible with lunging at cats.

This work will start at home. There should be no more reinforcement of any kind for the rather excessive and uncomfortable mouthing which is quite obviously a habit and his default when aroused. You could say that he’s ‘mouth happy’. The more stressed he becomes, the harder the grip with his teeth. I don’t like to call this a bite.

When it happens they need to be immediate. They recognise the signs. Even as his mouth approaches they must withdraw themselves and look away. No more scolding or ‘No’. Currently when they may leave their hand in his mouth before removing it. They need to change their own habits and respond a lot more promptly.

It must be hard being a dog, having no hands, only mouth and teeth!

It looks like Rufus generates much of his attention by mouthing or bringing toys to throw or tug. The man has a nasty bite on his thumb he received while playing with him – it was a mistake. Rufus has not learnt to be careful with his teeth. From now onwards all play instantly stops if teeth or even open mouth are felt.

The tuggy game played properly is a great way to teach this.

Just as important is to regularly offer him plenty of interaction when he’s calm. Already his humans they have started hunting nose-games games with him.

Although he has bitten a few times, I would never label Rufus an ‘aggressive dog‘. A dog that redirects frustration is a dog that is unfulfilled. In Rufus’ case, when out, it’s his drive to chase that’s unfulfilled.

They will get a long line so Rufus can have a degree of freedom when they take him by car to more interesting places where he can sniff and explore. Chase and recall can be worked on too. Always restrained on a short lead must in itself be frustrating for him.

They have strategies now to help Rufus to calm himself down and they know how to handle the mouthing. Communication with humans must be frustrating for a dog too – with no hands and with no language that humans seem able to understand!

He must gradually learn that it’s times he’s not using his mouth that things happen. It’s not always a good idea to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ if there is nothing in it for them!

Like charity, impulse control starts at home. Over time and with work, they should be able to manage the cat situation too.

Ten days have gone by, during which time poor Rufus was attacked by another dog and has two sizeable gashes in his side. Despite this, great progress already: Rufus seems much more relaxed in his new harness and I am gaining confidence with it too. We went to Milton Park yesterday and had a very pleasant walk together. The park has open spaces and woods also lakes.He saw coots with chicks and just watched them calmly: not interested in pulling to get nearer or show any interest in chasing.Friends have been most understanding and cooperative when visiting and I can see improvements with Rufus. He has also improved in not mouthing or nipping so much.Considering  we have only been putting your instructions in place for just over a week (and him being bitten into the bargain), I feel Rufus has made a promising start.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Rufus. 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 aggression of any kind is involved. 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).

Frustration Redirected on Nearest Human

The first few weeks of a dog’s life can have lifelong impact.

Sally and Pepper are two adorable and friendly Shih Tzus, ages five and eighteen months respectively.

They came from different breeders and this is reflected in their general confidence and sociability to other dogs. Sally is quite happy carrying her ball and playing games when out. Pepper, on the other hand, is on permanent alert to sounds….and to dogs.

No frustration from the two dogs now

Sally and Pepper

Pepper left his mother and litter a bit early and hadn’t been well cared for, very different to Sally’s start in life.

Walks can be difficult for the young lady in particular. She’s actually scared now when walking little Pepper. When held back from attacking another dog, he has redirected his frustration three times now, resulting in bites.

It’s easy to assume that this is just something to do with ‘training’ out on walks.

I see it as part of a much bigger picture that if they first get all the groundwork in place at home and understand how to approach the ‘other dog’ problem by seeing things through Pepper’s eyes, things should dramatically improve.

Pepper will then have no need for frustration.

 

Frustration constantly rehearsed by Pepper even within his own home

There are two dogs living next door with just a wall between the houses, one dog in particular is very noisy.

Barking is heard intermittently throughout the day, upon which the younger Shih Tzu, Pepper, will immediately react and run around the house barking ineffectually, trying to get to the barking dog the other side of the wall.

Imagine his frustration at failing every time. This may happen many times a day.

Cheeky Sally, too, may give one bark to set him off!

Worse, a while ago the two male dogs would regularly ‘fence-fight’ with much snarling and leaping at the fence from both sides. The large dog had knocked down the old fence and his leaping at the new fence has already exposed gaps at the bottom.

Although Pepper is no longer free to go outside in his own garden, whenever he is let out he’s on high alert. Even from the kitchen French window he can hear the other dog the other side of the fence, and this room is where he and Pepper are left when they go out.

Bouts of frustration will be recurring.

So, it’s against this background at home that makes Pepper’s behaviour out on walks all the more understandable.

Helping him needs to be approached from three angles.

The first is management in order to make Pepper’s environment as helpful as possible – like gating him away from the back window and only letting him out on a lead.

The second is to get Pepper to feel differently so that he no longer feels he needs to bark through the wall and protect himself outside in his garden. This can only be done by desensitising and counter-conditioning.

We made a start, as you can see from the picture. I took the photo when both dogs were sitting in front of me while noises went on from next door.

Changing the emotions that drive him to being so reactive to other dogs also involves reducing Pepper’s stress levels in general so that he becomes a calmer dog.

When he’s no longer reacting to the barking through the wall, they can move on to working in the garden. With time and effort they should have him ignoring the dog behind the fence. Without Pepper retaliating, the next door dog will be quieter.

 

What about encountering dogs on walks, though?

How his humans behave when out on walks and another dog appears is crucial.

At present they hold Pepper tight as they advance on the dog – they may pick him up – and all he wants to do is to get at it. He lunges, snarls and, to quote, ‘barks ballistically’.

At proximity he will never learn to feel differently. It’s how he’s feeling that is driving how he’s behaving.

Avoiding dogs altogether will get them nowhere, though I do suggest a couple of dog-free weeks to build upon. Why?

Then, as with the dogs next door, it’s slow, patient work that is required so he is never pushed beyond his comfort threshold and eventually comes to feel differently about them.

Thirdly, after management and working on changing how Pepper feels, comes teaching him actions that are incompatible with the unwanted behaviour (like ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘stay’ and so on) or removing himself from trouble if the neighbour’s dog is in their garden.

Within a few minutes yesterday, using appropriate harness and lead, they were walking a much calmer dog on a loose lead down the road. Pulling against a tight lead causing discomfort to the neck from a collar is not conducive of a relaxed walk. When he lunges at a dog it will hurt his delicate little neck. From now on, if another dog suddenly appears and they can’t react in time, he will feel no discomfort.

He will be taken to what he considers is a safe distance. If they watch him he, he will let them know where this distance is.

At this distance the work they will have been doing with the dog next door can be replicated out on the walk.

In all areas of Pepper’s life they will do their best to keep his arousal levels down. Stress and frustration go hand in hand. Being on constant alert also means he could well be sleep-deprived, which will not be helping his stress levels either.

The ‘stress circle’: barking creates stress and stress creates barking! Stress creates more reactivity to other dogs and reactivity to other dogs creates more stress…. and so on.

 

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 Pepper. I don’t go into detail. 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 aggression or fearfulness 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 Get Help page)

Redirected Frustration Biting

Frustration builds up all day, flooding his brain with stress hormones

Beautiful Finnish Lapphund Teemu is now nine months old. If things continue in the direction they are going, they worry that either the lady or one of the children will be hurt. So far blood hasn’t been drawn, but if things continue as they are it is only a matter of time.

He gave me an excited welcome with some jumping up – no more than many adolescent dogs that I go to. However, quite soon it became apparent just how stressed he is. He paced, he panted, he looked for trouble and he kept barking to be let out, then barking with frustration when the door wasn’t opened.

The problem is – CATS.

They sit up on the fence, staring down at him as he goes berserk. They come into his garden and stare brazenly through the window at him.

Teemu goes mental.

All day he is stressing through the French windows over cats.  If no cat is there, he is waiting for one. If he sees a cat he would break the window down if he could and the noise of his barking blocks out everything.

When he’s let out, even if there are no cats Teemu won’t come back in just in case one might appear.

They stay just out of reach, teasing him.

Hour by hour as the day progresses he becomes more stressed. Then the kids come home and boom – it’s all stacked up and he explodes. He has pinned the lady to the wall, snarling. Mornings can be over-exciting too. The other day before school he turned on the little girl though stopped short of biting – this time. She was throwing his ball and he lost his temper.

He calms down in the evening. At first I thought it may be because the kids have gone to bed, but probably it’s because, when it’s dark, he can no longer see out of the window so he has a break from cat-lookout.

 

Management is the first step and should make a huge difference.

Frustration building up he watches out of the window

A CAT!

I predict that three simple things, nothing to do with training or behaviour therapy, will make a big difference and enable them to make real progress with the work we need to do.

Firstly, if Teemu can’t see out of the window he can’t be on ‘cat-watch’, can he.

As soon as I left they were going out to buy some plastic window frosting which can go on the lower part of the French windows.

Secondly, you can get prickly plastic thingies to put on top of fences that make it too uncomfortable for a cat to sit on the fence.

Thirdly, for now when they let him out it can be on a retractable lead – the only good use for one! – the handle perhaps shut in the door. As soon as he barks or sees a cat, in he comes before he has a chance to get too wound up.

 

Teemu shouldn’t be labelled ‘aggressive’. The behaviour is redirected frustration.

Down the road from me there are two Boxers left out all day in a front garden. They bark madly when another dog passes and then, because they can’t get at their real target – the passing dog – one Boxer dog goes for the other and it ends in a fight. Why the man lets it happen I really don’t know.

This is the sort of thing that is happening with Teemu. He can’t get to his real target so he redirects onto something else, but not something stronger than himself like the very tall man. The lady is petite and the children are small.

Reynolds3He has already had some good puppy training and they have used clicker. With this his humans can now reinforce the behaviours that they want – all the good things Teemu does.

They will work on doing things calmly at certain trigger points – for instance, when people come down in the morning, when their cat is about (their cat stands up for himself and Teemu would like to play), when callers come to the house and so on.

If they can drastically reduce his frustration and stress, he will have nothing to redirect. He should become a lot more accepting of things he doesn’t much like – such as being groomed.

With management in place, a pot of good food, a clicker, the good exercise he already gets and plenty of patience along with a list of healthy activities that aren’t too arousing, they will win! They will have a calmer dog and a dog that they can trust.

I checked to see how they were doing six months after I first met Teemu, and this is the reply: We are doing great thank you. I can’t believe it has been six months already. Teemu has been amazing and incredibly well behaved. He has his moments (as we all do) but they are very short lived. We revert back to your plan to refresh our minds every now and again and even the children are still following your advice. We’re very grateful for your follow up to check how we’re doing, it’s lovely that you still care so much. We have ourselves a lovely, affectionate four legged member of the family and we are indebted to you for all your help.
Message to me the next morning: So far so good. The children were brilliant this morning before school and Teemu was just as good. We have had a foraging game in the garden and a packed Kong and he is now relaxing. The window covers are amazing and have had an immediate effect. We cannot thank you enough. There has been no frantic barking either. 
Later the same evening (day two): Just an update from our first full day of implementing “Plan Calm” (as we’ve called it), and it has been really positive. Today has been the first day in I don’t know how long that Teemu has not bitten myself or the girls. He had a few minutes a couple of times when I had to turn away at his barking but other than that he has been incredibly calm and has responded well to the changes. I know there will be times when he tries to push the boundaries again but today has given me more confidence with how to deal with those times if/when they occur. He is currently exhausted from all the foraging and finding today and is sprawled across our feet fast asleep on the floor! As far as Day 1 has gone, we are thrilled. Huge Thank yous are sent your way.
Telephone conversation 5 days after my visit: They have had a great week. No biting. He is a different dog. The children can already move about freely and they, too, are being wonderful. The lady had her best walk ever yesterday with no pulling. It’s like they have found the key. Very pleased. It’s not often that things begin to work so quickly but in this case it’s purely because the dog was misunderstood.
Over three weeks have now gone by:  Overall, I think we’re doing great! We have a much happier household, the children are confident around Teemu now and have all done incredibly well with not over exciting him. We have not experienced any biting at all since your visit and I feel that Teemu now has respect for us all and not just the males in the family.
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 Teemu. I don’t go into detail. 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 aggression or fearfulness 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 Get Help page)