German Shepherd Trying to Fit in to his New Home

Charlie is settling in to his new homeCharlie has had quite a few ups and down in his two years of life. As soon as I saw him he reminded me so much of my Milly who also had a difficult start. At some point somebody must have cared because he has been taught quite a few commands, but he was discovered somewhere left to starve, then kennelled and then fostered. Considering all this he’s doing brilliantly.

He has been in his new home for one week now, and one or two disturbing things are surfacing. He is very reactive and aggressive towards other dogs when out – something they’d not been warned about. Also, some occasional growling at the family is starting. With resources it’s all about owning them and hanging onto them, and when he has a toy or a bone he will parade it, growling.

Most of the time I was there Charlie was trying really hard to calm himself down, bless him. The family interpreted his behaviour around people as friendliness where I see a large element of anxiety. He’s not hyper at all, but more like the swan gliding on water and paddling furiously underneath, so the signs are not too bovious. They hadn’t read his somewhat obsessive licking of people, yawning, lip-licking, pacing, foot lifting and general restlessness as stress. The adult son asked me how could I know what these things meant. I said I can understand Charlie’s body language just as he can read another person’s face when they smile or frown. It’s through training and experience.

Where walking is concerned, so long as they patiently follow the plan, just like so many of my other clients with similar problems who have stuck at it, the family will ultimately have their daily long walks – and walks will be a joy and not something to dread.

The lady says she feels it’s cruel not to going for daily long walks. I say what is cruel is to have a highly stressed dog, pulling painfully on the lead, being forcibly held or corrected, wearing a muzzle which he is constantly trying to scrape off, trying to chase traffic, watching out for danger all the time – and when he sees another dog it’s a nightmare. That is cruel. It’s what many people with the best will in the world subject their dogs to, day in and day out.

Charlie is a wonderful dog. At last he is with the sort of family he deserves, who want to understand him and do their best of him.

Trouble Brewing BEtween the Two Dogs

Sleeping Jack Russell Lou


Blue Merle Rough Haired Collie can be a little nervous of visitors to the house


A coincidence! Only yesterday I visited Blue Merle Sheltie Robbie, and today a larger version –  seven-month-old Blue Merle Rough Collie, Jasper. He moved in with cute little Terrier Lou’s family a few weeks ago. Lou is two years of age.

The dogs get on very well for the most part, but little Lou, who, being little trouble, has been accustomed to having everything to himself and largely doing as he likes, is becoming increasingly possessive around chews and certain toys, and Jasper is now challenging him.

This is now happening when the lady owner is making a fuss of one of the dogs – it’s like she, too, is a resource that the dogs are quarrelling over! They have three young boys, and Lou is likely to growl and snap if they pick him up or try to move him when he doesn’t want to be moved.

Getting a second dog can make a very big difference – more than double trouble sometimes! The order of things needs to be changed. Jasper, at the age of seven months old, is starting to ‘try it on’. He is also a little fearful of new people and some other things, so needs to grow up with the reassurance of firm leadership. Lou in particular needs leadership. It is asking for trouble when young children physically make a dog do something he doesn’t want to do by picking him up or dragging him. Willing cooperation needs to be worked on whilst his personal space should be respected.

Once things start going in the wrong direction between two dogs, when they start to fall out over resources, it usually gets worse if nothing is done, and it’s the humans’ own behaviour that needs changing. Any ‘contact sports‘ play needs to be interrupted very early on and I have shown them the best way to do this – just as another, stable, dog would do it to keep the peace.

I’m sure things will calm down soon so long as they are consistent, and then I shall be helping them to achieve more enjoyable walking.

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

Puppy Jumps Up, Nips, Bites and Guards

What a beautiful face Springer Pebbles has Pebbles is six months old. Her mother is her father’s daughter – which isn’t a good thing! This means her father, a Springer Spaniel, is her grandfather – but fortunately her grandmother was a Border Collie so there are some new genes in the mix.

I absolutely loved her! Look at that face!

Before I went I assumed that in-breeding would be the main cause of her problems, but I think not now. She parted from her siblings too young and consequently never learnt bite inhibition. She gets excited and rough to easily, and she jumps up persistently on people – maybe grabbing and nipping also. She guards things that she steals and also her food.

I believe that a lot of this unwittingly has to do with the home circumstances.

The problem has been allowed to escalate because, although she is fortunate to have company during the day, while the family is at work she is alone with the old lady who is neither mobile nor active enough to respond appropriately. Unfortunately Pebbles has bitten her twice – quite badly. She’s not bitten anyone else – yet.Springer Pebbles with a toy

This is a difficult situation because the lady loves Pebbles and wants to touch and spoil her. We have to play safe for Pebbles’ sake as well as the lady’s. For now I hope Pebbles will be left behind the gate and that the lady will not let her through when she is alone in the house. They can all then work on being calm, consistent, quiet and firm. Only when Pebbles has calmed down, learnt some rules and boundaries, stopped being possessive and using her teeth, should she again be in the same rooms as the old lady when nobody else is there to help.

To deal with jumping up and nipping in a way that doesn’t cause things to escalate or develop into aggression or defiance, one needs to be fairly agile, to be consistent and to react fast. Anything confrontational like scolding or saying NO only encourages her, as does waving hands about and trying to push her away.

I taught Pebbles to respect me by how I reacted to her jumping up and soon she was virtually eating out of my hand. You could see how happy she was being taught rules and boundaries in terms she understood. I concentrated on showing her what I DID want instead of the jumping. Not once did anyone tell her off, say ‘No’ or tell her ‘Down’.

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

Moving in together with their dogs

Poor Springer Murphy isn't a happy dog just now



Poor Murphy is not a very happy dog at the moment. The Springer Spaniel and his male owner have recently moved in with the man’s girlfriend, who has two-year-old Akitas, brother and sister.

Murphy was his man’s companion for a couple of years and could do what he liked. It was no problem that he climbed on top of him, on the back of his sofa behind him and slept up on his pillow at night. Murphy’s tendencies to guard resources, food in particular, were not a problem.

Now they have moved in with Chikara and Kai, two beautiful young Akitas. In their past life they too slept on the bed and climbed on the sofas, burying their lady owner in their huge hairiness.

It’s no wonder that there is tension between the three dogs now. The female Akita, Chakira, has always been the bossy one, and now it is a contest between her and Murphy.  She has Kai to back her up.

There is trouble around all the predictable things. All three dogs now start the night on the bed with the couple, and there are nightly fights. If the lady tries to move Murphy or go and get him he growls at her, and immediately her two dogs come to her defence – Chakira with her teeth.

Poor Murphy isn’t used to sharing his owner and sits possessively in front of him. All three dogs are unsettled and restless. As well as fights over the lady, there are fights around food, there are fights around the bed and there are fights around the sofa – when one or both people are about. Sleeping on the bed all three together is no problem when people are not about. Sleeping on the sofa all three together is not a problem either, when they are alone.

Poor Murphy is becoming increasingly defensive and unhappy, growling when he is approached and wanting lots of attention from the man. The lady is a little wary of him and he will know this. She has on the whole had admirable control over her two large Akitas; without which the situation would be far worse.

The main kick off points have to be removed. No more going in the bedroom or on the bed, and feeding done in such a way that conflict is impossible. The dogs need to sit on the floor. Murphy high on the chair arm looking down on the others is not a good thing, particularly when he resists being removed, growls, and then a fight will start.  Murphy needs some special quality time and controlled activity instead, instigated by both the humans and not by himself.

As the man said, in the past it had been ‘my’ dog and ‘your’ dogs. Now they need to work on them being ‘their’ dogs. They are going to work on relationship building – man and Akitas, lady and Springer – mix and match! The humans need to gain the upper hand in a calm, quiet and controlled way – through the sort of leadership that the dogs already understand.

27th March: I visited these dogs today, the atmosphere was relaxed and the fighting has stopped. The couple are not longer living on tenterhoooks and there is no longer ‘your dog’ or ‘my dogs’. They have been very diligent in following our plan and the dogs are getting along very well now.

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

Possessive Puppy


Golden Cocker 6 months oldLast evening I had the pleasure of visiting a beautiful Golden Cocker Spaniel pup called Monty (sorry I moved when I took the photo). He is nearly six months old.  His owners have been trying to do all the right things with training him, but as a little personality he is more of a challenge than some more easy going dogs!

He was the bossiest and according to the breeder most dominant of the puppies in his litter. She was going to keep him but opted for an easier life!

Monty is ‘turning nasty’ when he is told to do something, or not to do something, and doesn’t wish to obey. There is a bamboo plant in the garden that is like a magnet to him and he loves to tear bits off and chew them up. The people are confrontational in their approach, may try to pull him away, tell him ‘leave’ or shout at him or even go to pick him up.  He has taken to growling, snarling and biting them. The same happens if they try to get him off the sofa.

He will show aggression if he has anything in his mouth that they don’t want him to have, or even if he thinks they might want it. It can be impossible to get it off him without a battle. He has now also started to guard his bed.

In every other respect he is a brilliant dog and the way to change this behaviour is for the owners to change theirs.

At present there are too many commands and words. There are five adults in the household and someone is on his case most of the time, either fussing and cuddling him or teling him what not to do. The word NO is overused. NO is even used before he does something, when he may do it and isn’t even doing it yet. This must be very confusing.

They are going to tone down the ‘controlling’ of Monty and keep commands to the minimum – try to cut out the word NO as far as they can and find other ways, positive ways, to get Monty to cooperate and to work things out for himself. I find a lot of people try to exert unecessary control over their young dogs.  You can achieve calm better by simply waiting in silence as you can be repeating Sit and Wait over and over.

When Monty has something in his mouth, they are going to ask themselves ‘does it matter?’. If the item isn’t particularly important and if it will do him no harm, they should leave it. Walk away. He is probably taking it because he enjoys the challenge and the reinforcement he receives.  If it is important that he relinquishes the item, they need to go about it another way. In essence, Monty needs to see his owners as Givers and not Takers. This needs to be reinforced on every possible occasion, even through how they choose to play with him.

In the case of things like the bamboo, there is only one way to retain peace in the household and that is to remove the opportunity. Block access to it for a while until he loses interest. Removing the opportunity for behaviours can save a lot of conflict and stress.

If you don’t tell your dog to do something he can’t refuse and defy you can he! You can usually find a way of outwitting him so does what you want whilst thinking it was his own idea! Keep your sense of humour and it can be fun.

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