Newly re-homed German Shepherd barks at cats.

They already have beautiful German Shepherd Dave and, a few days ago, another GSD, Lottie, joined the family.

The most immediate problem is that Lottie barks at cats – they have two that are used to freely coming and going. Now they are scared and Lottie is becoming increasingly reactive.

As she settles in, she behaves like she increasingly regards the cats as scary intruders. Continue reading…

Rescue Dog Not Home Trained

Rescue Rottweiler house-trained not home trained

Missy

Missy is house trained but I wouldn’t say she is home trained.

I had been in the house for just a few minutes when the large three-year-old Rottweiler jumped straight from the floor onto the dining table I was sitting at (to discourage her from jumping on me), probably smelling treats in my bag on the table out of her reach, knocking my cup of tea flying!

They also have another rescue dog, a calmer German Shepherd mix aged five called Duke.

The lady got in touch with me about a week ago – just before she brought Missy home. She was very worried that the two dogs might not get on although she had already taken Duke to the kennels to be with Missy seven times. I advised that the two dogs met up away from her house on neutral territory and then were walked back into the house together and all seems to be going well between them.

Moving into a house is a huge adjustment for Missy and the lady is determined that it’s going to be for keeps. The dog had been passed between several rescue kennels for most of her life before landing on her feet at last with a lovely home and someone who is prepared to do what it takes to give her the life she deserves. It’s hard to see why the gorgeous dog wasn’t adopted a long time ago. She is very friendly but just needs to learn house rules and adjust to home life.  Everyday things like a floor mop or getting into a car are unfamiliar and stressful for her. Considering what must be overwhelming changes in her life and routines she’s having to adjust to, she is managing surprisingly well.

They have had to put two gates in the kitchen doorway, one on top of the other, so that ‘high-jump’ Missy can be kept safe and the two dogs separated when necessary. She is perfectly happy to be left in there as I guess being behind bars is the norm to her. Rescues have obviously done some training with her within the environment of the kennels. She doesn’t pull on lead. She’s polite around food, she understands to sit and probably more besides.

Missy has redirected with some nipping onto Duke when suddenly over-aroused and she may do the same with people – mouthing and nibbling at them. They have learnt not to do certain things that excite her, like ball play. Life for her at the moment is quite exciting enough. There is a little bit of jealousy from Duke when Missy is fussed so the lady will need to make it clear that she chooses who she will fuss and when, not Duke. Missy is a little bit too playful for Duke at the moment. The lady needs to remain alert if their are valuable resources about like a bone or toy but there’s been no hint of any trouble so far.

The only way the two dogs can be walked is separately and Duke gets distressed when left alone, so they will be working on that. Though fine with larger dogs, Missy seems to be somewhat disturbed by little dogs – staring and what the lady describes as fixating on them, so there is work to be done there.

German Shepherd Staffie mix

Duke

One thing that needs to change as soon as possible is Missy’s persistent jumping up whether the person is standing or sitting. If they are sitting down she will leap on top of them – and she’s a big girl! She doesn’t know what it is acceptable to chew and what isn’t. It’s very much like having a huge puppy to train!

I visited them on just the fourth day in Missy’s new home, so we don’t yet know exactly what we are dealing with yet. When the dust has settled we will be able to work on training and play to help equip her for her new life and things that will focus her brain rather than stir her up. She will gradually become habituated to everyday things, I’m sure.

This purpose of this first visit has been to put things in place so that they start off right and pre-empt any obvious problems that could develop. There are lots of other things we can work on in the future when the time is right and depending upon how long the lady wants me to help her for.

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 Missy and Duke. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression may be involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Rehomed Older Dog

Oldies Club Border Terrier

Max

As is often the case with a rehomed older dog, it’s impossible to know how that dog will be when he has had time to settle into his new home and a totally different lifestyle. When a dog has probably spent his recent years shut indoors, it is hardly surprising when there are issues around other dogs.

Dear little Max, age eleven, has been rehomed by Oldies Club. Like many older dogs, he has been the loved pet of a person who through age or infirmity has no longer been able to look after him properly. Max now has a new lease of life living with an active couple and their other Border Terrier, thirteen year old Katie.

Elderly Border Terrier

Katie

Because there were dogs that he was fine with, it was assumed he would be okay with all dogs. The new owners got a shock when, soon after they had brought him home, Max and a relative’s small dog, as soon as they clapped eyes on one another, broke into a fight. Since then there have been some other incidents resulting in walks not being enjoyable and the couple now having to curtail some of the previous activities they had enjoyed with the placid and dog-friendly Katie.

Having asked lots of questions to get a good feel for the situation against a background of the great many dogs and people I have been to, I got a clear picture of what needs to be done.

Like so many dogs, the issue may be of other dogs on walks, but there are things to put in place first at home in order to optimise their strategies when out. I likened it to a tripod – three ‘legs’ to hold firm and ‘other dogs out on walks’ to then be placed on top (house built on rock, not sand).

The first thing is to address the barking at dogs from his own home. There is a truly aggressive-sounding dog the other side of the fence so there is a lot of boundary running and barking from the two of them, filling Max with fear and honing his dog-aggression skills. He also is on watch at the front window from the back of the sofa. Not only can the couple take responsibility for danger and lookout duty, they can also do some serious desensitisation and counter-conditioning work in their own garden.

The second thing is that both dogs are overfed with food left down all the time. We preferably want to be able to work with food so Max has to be a bit more hungry and food needs more value – so they have work to do rationing food and making it harder to come by.

Thirdly is to keep his general stress levels as low as possible. They have already noticed that his ‘aggression’ episodes have taken place after a run of minor things has occurred that will have gradually stacked up – loading the gun so to speak.

With these things in place, they can now work on the ‘other dogs’ issue. We have a step-by-step plan.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Rescue Dog Settling In

VinnieI suggested they start all over again just as though Vinnie had never been walked before!

They have had the young Jack Russell for just over one week now and he is a rescue dog slowly finding his feet.

It’s very likely that he had seldom been outside his home and garden during the 2 1/2 years of his life which was apparently with a terminally ill person. He is another dog that reacts badly when seeing other dogs and where the groundwork needs to be put in at home first.

Each day he becomes more relaxed with them and although he’s an independent little dog he now will enjoy a cuddle.

He has a couple of strange little quirks.  He is completely quiet when anyone comes up the front path, rings on the doorbell, delivers a package or comes in the front door. However, when there is any noise from out the back – a dog barking or a car door slamming, he will rush out barking.

He’s very reactive to anything sudden, even someone coughing (they will gradually desensitise him to that in very small stages and using food). I do wonder whether the general background noise in his previous home may have been higher. One can only speculate. Now he lives with quiet people in a quiet area and against this background most sounds may well seem sudden.

The other strange thing is that from time to time he stands still, almost trance-like with his eyes closing. I did wonder whether it was because he was anxious, but there were no other indications such as lip licking or yawning. I took a video. On advice, I have suggested they get this checked out with their vet.

They will first start walking Vinnie in the garden until both humans and dog have the technique and a loose lead. As they go along they will work on getting and keeping his attention.

Only then they will venture out of the gate – but they won’t be going very far!

Bit by bit they will build on this until he is walking happily down the road on a loose lead. Only now will they be ready to work on dogs and Vinnie should be a lot more confident. They must do their best to keep at a distance where Vinnie isn’t too uncomfortable to take food or to give his humans his attention.

The secret to success, particularly with a rescue dog, is being prepared to put in the necessary effort and put in the necessary time – as I know Vinnie’s people are (see my ‘Reality Check’ page).

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Vinnie which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Speak Quietly and Dog Will Listen

Poodle Bosco is a confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good 'dog parenting'.

Bosco

Denver, an ex stud dog in a puppy farm, was rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales

Denver

Two gorgeous Toy Poodles! They have had ten-year-old black Bosco since he was a puppy and the confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good ‘dog parenting’.

Denver they rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales a couple of years ago and he was used as a stud dog in a puppy farm. The damage done to these dogs with years of being being pent up and complete lack of early socialisation is awful. He is about five years old. Initially he spent most of his time hiding – especially from the man. They have come a long, long way with him since then but now need that final push, someone with experience who can see things through different eyes.

Denver will still make a wide berth around the gentleman, running to hide under the kitchen table from where he watches in ‘safety’. Where cajolling and trying to win him over has gone some of the way, I feel running around trying to please him is exerting its own pressure upon Denver. The man in particular needs more of a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Both little dogs have too much freedom with dog flap left open day and night, even when the couple are out. They graze on food permanently left down. Some basic boundaries should also go some way to making Denver feel more secure.

He keeps his distance – quietly watching – on alert. He was wary of me; with my body angled away and my hand slowly out with a piece of cheese, he gently took it from me then quickly backed away to safety.

Little Denver needs to learn to happily engage with the man as he does now with the lady, so I showed him what I would myself do. I first demonstrated with Bosco so Denver could watch him being rewarded with cheese. Looking away from him, I then very quietly and gently asked Denver to sit which he did at a distance of about six feet from me. I gently tossed him cheese. When he was just one inch closer I asked him to sit again – cheese. In this way, over a period of days or maybe even weeks, the man will get Denver close to him – he can even earn some of his daily food quota in this way. The reason I asked Denver to sit was so he might feel the food was for doing something easy – sitting – rather than doing something very hard which was to engage directly with the man.

Once Denver is sitting close, he can hand him the food rather than drop it on the floor. Next step is to touch him just once before feeding – and so on. Later on he can gradually be taught to ‘touch’ people’s hands and to look them in the eye using clicker-type method (operant conditioning). The secret is to break everything down into tiny steps and to be very patient.

While this process is being worked on, the man must make no attempt to touch Denver at any time. If he plays sufficiently hard to get for long enough, the little dog should eventually feel safe enough to actually choose to be touched.

Denver keeps his distance - quietly watching - on alert.

Denver

I demonstrated with Bosco who had been taught lots of actions just how effective speaking very softly and saying the word only once can be. The dog focusses. A firm command is not far short of using physical force in order to make a dog do something and therefore exerts pressure of a kind. A gentle ‘request’ means the dog feels he’s choosing to do what we want.

Think ‘request’, not ‘command’!

Patience is something these people have already demonstrated over the past two years that they have in abundance.

Imprisoned With Fighting Dogs

Roxy had a verybad start in lifePoor Roxy is just ten months old, and probably a Labrador-Pit Bull  cross.

She had been living in one room, surrounded feces and urine, and the gentleman found her with two dogs he describes as ‘fighting dogs’ that intimidated her to staying in her corner. She is now living with a couple and their two-year-old son, and the adjustment is enormous. She is scared and confused. They have bathed her twice which terrifies her, and the water is still filthy.

She only poos once a day – on the sitting room rug. She holds it until she is alone at night. This is hardly surprising when all her life she has done it indoors, and because her new owners scolded her (she would immediately cower). She will be waiting until she’s all alone and nobody is looking. She won’t toilet on walks or in the garden (she won’t go outside alone).

Outside she is surprisingly calm unless approached by a person or until she sees another dog, when understandably she is very reactive. She has had no experience of normal dog to dog interaction. She will rear up, snarl, hackle and lunge.

I have started them off with ‘homework’ for a fortnight and shall go again. They need to start somewhere and the basics are gaining Roxy’s confidence, which isn’t done either by over-compensating as the were doing or disciplining her with a cross voice. She is super-sensitive and already showing signs of becoming overly attached to the gentleman, leading to possessiveness and growling. The toileting needs approaching in the right way, as does encountering other dogs on walks.

Roxy has had no healthy interactions with either humans or dogs, though I do wonder whether her very early days might have been different as she could actually be far worse. That is a tragic thought. You can see in the first photo she’s doing a deliberate ‘look-away’, showing her uneasiness at people looking at her.

The very first priority is a dog gate for the kitchen doorway. This will solve a lot of problems. Night time toileting will be on a washable floor, she will feel safe away from the’ barking chair’ at the front window and, most importantly, she can be separated from their two-year-old son if necessary.

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

English Bull Terrier and Toddler

EBT Stanley sitting in a chair holding his ballStanley is an English Bull Terrier of under a year old, and his new owners have had him for two weeks. They are worried because he ‘squares up’ to their 16 month old toddler. He is fine so long as the little boy isn’t on the floor at his own level. Children stare and this may be part of the problem. Dogs can find direct eye contact either intimidating or confrontational.

Stanley is a slightly strange case. He is aloof. It’s like he grants people the privilage of being allowed to touch him. He gets attention whenever he asks for it, then walks off – ‘I’ve had enough’.  I noticed when I walked about that he stood sideways in front of me blocking me, and made no effort to move as I approached him.

In the two weeks that they have had him Stanley has been allowed to consider the house his own personal kingdom. There is nowhere he’s not allowed to go including all the family’s beds.  I fear that if he carries on like this it will only be a matter of time before he begins to object when someone wants to remove him. He’s still testing the waters. It’s quite a small house with eight family members spanning three generations, so there is a lot going on. He goes where he wants and does what he wants – including wrecking the garden.

If Stanley is allowed to believe that he rules the family, he may believe it’s his job to put the little boy in his place. He may not welcome an uninvited intrusion into his important personal space. So, the family owes it to Stanley to put some rules and boundaries into place for him pretty quickly. There should be certain no go zones in the house. Most importantly of all, they need to work on the relationship between the little boy and the dog. First and foremost they need to play safe, and get a gate so that the two can be kept apart unless closely supervised. Because everybody is on tenterhooks when the two are together, this will be picked up by Stanley and not be helping the situation. So, for security and so that they all relax, Stanley must be on lead and maybe even the toddler attached to reins. Then that the people can gradually work on the situation, with Stanley associating the little boy with good things like treats, learning to come away when asked or when he feels stressed by the toddler, and also encouraging the child not to stare if that’s possible!

Stanley is a case of a rehomed dog where you don’t quite no what you have got for the first few weeks. As dogs settle in and establish their boundaires (or lack of!) their real personalities and possible former problems will surface. It’s good to start with firm rules in place. Better too strict than too lax, and fairer on the dog, but without too many demands or commands. It’s human nature to do the opposite – we want to over-compensate for the past in the mistaken belief that in order to make him feel at home he needs no boundaries and lots of fuss!

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