She doesn’t listen. Walks Aren’t Much Fun With Husky

Rescue Husky is a gentle and friencly family dogOrca is a three-year-old Husky who has been living with her new family for three months now.

She is proving to be a wonderful, loving and gentle addition to the family and has helped their 8-year-old daughter to get over a previous bad experience with a dog. The gentleman freqently takes Orca to work with him at his garage where she is hooked up for safety; she is as good as gold and friendly to everyone.

She ‘doesn’t listen’.

Out on walks however, Orca ‘doesn’t listen’ – especially when she is off lead. She has had the man waiting for two hours on several occasions. It’s not that she actually disappears but she stays out of reach!

I noticed at home that everything Orca wanted she got immediately. This was the case when she pawed him and when she jumped at him. Sometimes he reprimanded her, sometimes he actually fussed her when she did these things, whilst also saying they were behaviours that they didn’t want – especially with guests and the children’s friends.

Basically, every time Orca wants attention she gets it. Attention isn’t so freely available from the lady and consequently Orca pays more attention to her. You can easily understand how people adore her and want to fuss and touch her all the time.

Coming back when called

In addition to putting HuskyOrca1in some good recall training over a period of time both at home and when out, Orca needs to want to come back. As I often say, anything that is too readily on tap loses value, and this goes for an individual as well as for food. I did notice that when I ignored Orca’s jumping on me by tipping her off and then shortly afterwards I called her to me and offered her the attention under my own terms, she didn’t come. She just sat a little way away and looked at me! It illustrated my point perfectly.

The sort of jumping welcome I received seemed like a mix of excitement tinged with anxiety. It sounds like this is the sort of reaction she has to meeting other dogs when out. He needs to work at getting Orca’s attention on himself when required, rather than on other dogs. By earning her respect and attention at home through being a bit more consistent and not quite a pushover,  keeping her attention on him when out should be lot easier.

Changing one’s own behaviour in this respect can be quite hard if it goes against ones own nature, but playing a little hard to get can work wonders at times.

Obsessed with balls. Chasing sticks.

chasing sticks. Chasing ballsIt is sometimes hard to determine whether changes in a re-homed dog’s behaviour after a couple of weeks or so is due to settling in and old traits resurfacing, or to something the new people are themselves are doing. Probably a mix of both.

They have had delightful two-year-old DJ for about six weeks now and a couple of behaviour problems have surfaced that are getting worse.

Obsessed with balls

He is becoming increasingly obsessed with balls – but only as a tool to get people doing what he wants. As soon as anyone sits down he is constantly dropping the ball on them, waiting for it to be thrown. He is very winning and it’s hard not to do it – see the photo!

He’s not interested, however, if someone other than himself chooses to get a ball and throw it for him!

Less experienced people often believe extreme excercise is the cure to behaviour issues when in fact it can be the opposite. There is a happy balance. TV trainers with gimmicks are partly to blame. ‘Exhaust the dog and he will be good’! How do you feel if you are exhausted?

Chasing sticks

JD is much more strung up after his long walks with lots of chasing sticks than before he goes out. On the way back home he may lunge and bark at cars, something he doesn’t do on the way out. Then, once home, instead of being satisfied, he’s is in a very highly strung and agitated state, desperately seeking to unwind. If he can’t find a ball he shakes. He may chew his feet.

We are working out whether to go cold turkey with the balls, whether to offer him very short ball sessions but only instigated by the owners and not in the sitting room, or whether to give him something good to chew to distract him. I favour the latter if he will have it because the act of chewing produces calming chemicals in the body.

The second problem is that they are now wary of touching him. He leaps onto them whenever he feels like it, which would be okay if he didn’t then growl if they move, especially if he’s sleepy.

It seems the more they fall over themselves to please him and make him happy, the worse he gets. The daughter, who is a nanny, understood quite quickly what he needs – very much the same as the two children in her care need in order to feel secure, calm and happy. This isn’t constant attention, the grown-ups obeying their every demand, over-stimulating exercise and play, eating whenever they like and so on. It is quality time, play times, peaceful times, meal times, rules, boundaries and consistency, trusting the adults to make the important decisions – and plenty to occupy their brains!

Barking German Shepherd. Three Black German Shepherds

Three black German ShepherdsThese people are heroes! They already had eight year old Jet and then, four months ago, adopted a companion for him – one-year-old Cody.

Just after that they were asked to foster Jake, age 4, and he has just been left with them! Life will be a lot easier when a home is eventually found and they are down to the two dogs again.

Common sense and love

Common sense and love has brought Cody on wonderfully. He was extremely fearful when they first got him, but now all three dogs can be walked together – even to the extent that they go on a group dog walk at weekends with lots of other dogs.

All three dogs are completely unfazed by their little toddler daughter and this really is an achievement with dogs that have come from uncertain pasts.

Barking German Shepherd

The problem is, again, aggressive behaviour towards people coming to the house – from Cody. Another barking German Shepherd. I say ‘aggressive behaviour’ because he’s not an aggressive dog, he’s fearful, and all he knows is to respond aggressively.

Barking German Shepherd


So many German Shepherds I go to bark, lunge and may bite if given the chance when people come into their homes. Cody is crated but on the occasion that prompted them to contact me a friend was at the door. Cody had managed to break out of his metal crate and he flew at her, biting her arm. Skin wasn’t punctured so his aim wasn’t to destroy her – it was to get rid of her.

A big warning.

If a guest is in the house Cody has to be kept away, because the barking German Shepherd reacts if they so much as move. The other two dogs are just majorly excited.

I sat down – dogs find standing people far more threatening – and all three were brought in, one at a time, on lead – the calmest one first. The lead was dropped and the next dog fetched. Cody who was last barely reacted to me and I ignored him.

Soon I was dropping treats on the floor and he was coming to me to be fed and touched. I stood up. I walked about. It gave the lady great encouragement and hope to see what is possible if people behave the same way as myself with the dogs.

A calm alternative

All three dogs are being taught a calm behaviour incompatible with excited turmoil and using manic play in order to unwind. In a few minutes they were learning how to lie down quietly for the lady without even having to be told (see picture).

So many GSDs I go to are reactive and scared of people (and there are a lot, with another one tomorrow). Wouldn’t it be wonderful in a dream world if people breeding Shepherds accepted that guarding breeds of this sort who are easily spooked in particular need proactive and intense socialising from about 5 weeks onwards. They would only sell pups to sort of people who are committed to continuing this.

By about four months old the best opportunity for bomb-proof socialisation is passing.

I would bet that far more dogs end up being put to sleep for biting someone than would ever die of diseases from exposure to vaccinated dogs. Like human babies, for the first weeks they inherit immunity from their mother and her milk anyway.

Spookiness. Found at six weeks old on a motorway.

Spookiness maybe inheritedHe was found as a 6 week old puppy on a motorway in Miami with a tight rope around his neck.

Spookiness probably has a genetic component.

In the circumstances it seems likely that four year old mix breed Travis was born of fearful parents and his spookiness could have a genetic component.  He has had a couple of accidents due to bolting due through fear. On one occasion he was knocked down by a car.

He actually does very well indeed, but over time his spookiness of people is increasing, those that approach him and especially those coming into his house.

He has now bitten a couple of times – lightly so far and not breaking the skin.

They have shut him in his crate for many hours several days a week, which needs to change somehow. Even though he doesn’t seem to be suffering because of it, eleven hours at a time is much too long. They feel they can’t ask someone to let him out or to walk him because they can’t trust him with people entering their house.

He was better than I thought he would be

After I had sat myself down at the kitchen table which is the safest place and least threatening to a scared dog, and sent the teenage son to bring him in on lead, I was expecting lunging, barking and snarling. Not at all.

Travis was obviously very uncomfortable, making a sort of huffing, snorting sound, but he didn’t bark and he didn’t lunge. Very soon the lead was off but I sat still. He ate a bit of biscuit I dropped on the floor, and was soon taking it from my hand. I didn’t look at him. It is always easier if dogs are food-orientated like Travis.

Soon I was teaching him to look me in the eye – a real challenge for him – and to voluntarily touch my hand.

His confidence needs building up in every way possible and in all aspects of his life. I demonstrated how people should behave when visiting – and also how the family should behave in order to help him out. By shutting him away things can only get worse.

Travis is just a very jumpy dog, skittish at sudden sounds and spookiness resulting in wanting to bolt if he meets or hears something unexpected. He feels more confident when out with the son, but that will be because the lad himself feels more confident and it demonstrates how the owner’s own confidence can so effect a dog.

A stiff drink before walks could do wonders!

Update. An Email From Pogo

Pogo with a friend

Pogo on the right

Fourteen months ago I went to help Pogo (see his story). Here he is on the right in a recent photo with a friend. I just must share his email with you.

Hi Theo, remember me, the mad car chasing, washing machine hooligan, law unto myself (how could you forget me!), the busy rescue collie x lab (or as my mum says apart from my looks I am 100% collie in my outlook on life). I’m just about to turn 2yrs old and what a wonderful last year I have had!

I know that when my mum last e-mailed you, she said how she wished for the day my family could take me on holiday with them. Well it happened and it was great, I’d not had a holiday with a family before. We went to Yorkshire Moors last August and it was fantastic. Who would have thought I would ever be well behaved enough to go on holiday.

We spent most days walking on the moors, going to the beach – that was really good fun, I got to paddle in the sea, went to cafes for lunch where I got lots of goodies, did tricks for any children that wanted to give me a treat (yes, I can do tricks now like sit, paw, down, stay, come, wait and you can put a treat in front of my nose and I will not touch it until I’m told I can). My mum is always telling me what a clever boy I am and she gives me big kisses (yuk), but is always telling me how much my forever family love me.

One of the local ladies actually asked my mum if she would sell me and how much she wanted. My mum’s answer took no thought and firmly told the lady that I was not for sale, for any price. I was very well behaved wherever I went, but was very interested in the funny white fluffy animals on the moors and in the fields, I think my mum called them sheep, I wanted to chase them, but wasn’t allowed to play with them. My family told me many times how proud they were of me…..

I have loads of doggy friends that I meet on walks and even friends who come to our house.

Last week we went to the Fun Dog Show. I had a great time. I did some agility (yes, I can do that now as well and I’m very good at it. In fact I won the very first competition I entered). I’ve also had a go at Flyball and guess what, I’m good at that too (I’m known as the pocket rocket, I may have short legs but I have the speed and stamina of a collie). My girl person took me in the child handler class and you’ll never believe it, we came in 2nd place. What an achievement because a year ago even my mum and dad struggled to handle me. The only bad thing was that I came in 2nd .

Anyway, thought I better take time to write and give you an update. I know my mum has thanked you loads of times, but I would like to thank you for encouraging my family to have patience and give me a chance.

Doesn’t everyone just love happy endings, I am certainly very lucky (and so are my family for having me!).

See you soon,   POGOxxxxxxxxxx

‘Oldies Club’ Rescue Staffie Has a Home

Tommy has landed himself a comfy sofaTommy is delightful – a small Staffie X aged eight. He has had a hard life but landed on his feet a few days ago with two older gentlemen.

I am helping them to start off right with Tommy – a fresh beginning for him.

They may have a challenge not to spoil him too much in the early days. It’s much better to give a dog some rules and boundaries so that he knows what’s what from the outset. It will help him to feel secure. He also needs to be allowed some independence to avoid him developing separations issues.

There are however big problems with other dogs on walks when Tommy is on lead, and I suspect they were trying to do too much too soon. He will feel trapped on lead, in a strange environment with people he doesn’t know well. This needs to be taken back to basics, loose lead and calmer walking established, and plenty of standing and watching the world go by with the men knowing exactly how to react when a dog appears.

Because he is using aggression to protect himself, they suggested using a muzzle. I see it like this: Imagine a large gorilla is walking you on a chain through a safari park where you know there may be lions lurking. You are trapped, uncomfortable and helpless, all your attempts to pull and escape painfully thwarted. When a lion appears in the distance, rather than putting in some distance the gorilla yanks you to his side and keeps walking towards the lion – jerking the chain if you protest. This is an exaggerated version of how Tommy probably feels when out and on lead. Muzzling him? It’s like the gorilla has made you even more helpless by tying your hands behind your back.

Tommy needs to be able to trust his walker, and his walker needs to know how to react when other dogs are about.

Five weeks later: “I had my first ‘close encounter’ with another dog last night.  But for the first time I didn’t panic or tense up.  Jake was on lead and two dogs were quite a distance away.  I kept walking towards them and as soon as he clocked them I stopped and turned to walk the other way, he just followed!! In the past he would of stood his ground and not moved.  Then to top it all there was another one coming the other way, so did exactly the same.  I did put him in the car (didn’t feel quite ready to deal with 3 dogs off lead running around) and I stood in front the window facing the dogs.  They came bounding up to me, Jake didn’t move – normally he would have barked!!  Made of fuss of a couple of them, Jake just sat there.  I can’t believe how in control I felt”.
A couple of months after my visit: ‘Yesterday was two months to the day. The difference is amazing’.

Lunging at Traffic

Pogo is scared of all sorts of thingsWhat a dear little dog Pogo is. He is of indeterminate breed – there is probably both Collie and Terrier in there somewhere. Like so many of the rescue dogs I go to, he comes from Ireland and nobody knows his past. He spent a month in a foster home before joining his new family who have had him for just under two weeks.

He is a biddable and lovely natured dog, not overly nervous generally, but certain situations scare him out of all proportion. There are obviously things he has never encountered and one of those is moving cars. He goes frantic when a car passes, lunging and barking, although he is perfectly fine with stationery vehicles and with being inside a car. High prey drive may contribute also.

Pogo also barks frantically at the washing machine while it is filling with water. He had a bark at the large bag I carry with me. I feel he’s not been exposed to enough different things in his life, and lead walking beside roads is something he probably has never done before.

It is tempting to be cross and vocal when a dog behaves like this, but it does no good at all – in fact the contrary. Nor does ‘reassuring’ or treating which will only validate how he is feeling. Pogo needs to be slowly and gradually habituated to these things. It is an established fact that forcing a dog into situations he can’t cope with will most likely make things a lot worse, as does punishment, scolding and tight physical control which will result in discomfort. In his past a newspaper has obviously been used on Pogo. If a paper is lifted he cowers and runs.

A psychological approach to curing fears is altogether different, if slower, with permanent results and a confident, fearless dog.

Soon Pogo should be chilled around the washing machine – if his owners patiently follow my plan to the letter. It will be the same around traffic if the walking strategies are followed. He has landed on his feet with this family – and they are very fortunate to have such a wonderful little dog.

Latest email received two and a half months after my visit:  “Now, thinking back to the early days, it doesn’t seem possible how far we have come. To think back then that we were ready to give him up and put it down to a bad experience seems a lifetime ago. Once again, I thank you for your encouragement with our perseverance, life without him now would be unthinkable. He has been with us 12wks now and he has his paws firmly under the table. He has learnt how to play and enjoy life as a young dog, enjoys lengthy walks daily (usually in the evening after dinner) and is constantly on the go with our daughter playing, cuddled up and getting plenty of love. The two of them have become inseparable.
In your words, when we adopted Pogo, ‘he wasn’t what we signed up for’ and having been our first rescue dog was a real eye opener, but now I would urge anyone to give a ‘rescue dog’ a chance. If you are prepared to put in the work, the love you receive in return is unconditional.
The hoover is no longer a problem, he has stopped trying to kill it. The washing machine has become part of daily life. He still barks at certain things he hears when out in the garden, but that is usually to let us know someone is around. The normal everyday noises no longer bother him…. He is just far more settled and trusting in us to protect him from what he considers are the bad things in life. He really enjoys his walks and has met so many new friends and walking buddies. His recall (without any distractions) is going well. He walks well on his short lead, but out on long walks we have him on a 20ft lead to give him a little freedom…Despite his strange way with some objects he has become a super dog and we love him very much. He makes us laugh so much with his puppy traits and is so full of fun and zest for life. To think this little star of a dog could have been so close to being put to sleep in the Pound”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Jack Who Can Open Doors

Handsome Black Labrador, JackI have just been to see another Jack, a two-year-old labrador was a rescue dog from Ireland. His owner told me before we met. He is a lovely dog. Just one big problem – he is uncontrollable when we meet other dogs – I try to walk him where ever I can to avoid other dogs, and it takes the enjoyment out of walking him.  He has pulled me so much that he has hurt my back. I would love to be able to walk with Jack and enjoy it

Jack pulls, lunges and barks at other dogs. Walk is uncomfortable, scary and stressful for both Jack and his lady owner. He is yanked back. He rushes at cats, dogs and squirrels.  When he sees other dogs he bites and grabs the lead.

So now I have shown Jack’s owner how to start the walk with a calm dog, and what to do to get Jack to trust her to look after him, how to get him to walk beside her just like there was no lead on at all, and to take no notice of other dogs.  It will take a while, but she will get there I know.

It is hard to give Jack boundaries, because Jack can open doors! He is a  kind and gentle dog with the six-year-old granddaughter, and enjoys her company.

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