Romanian Rescue Puppy. Guards Resources. Occupies Areas

Imagine, how a Romanian puppy of about four months old must feel, being flown across Europe in a crate. Then, after a long drive in a car, the puppy enters an alien environment, a home.

Romanian street puppyThe family, first-time dog owners, has done very well indeed with Cody who is now 18-months old. Most of the time he is affectionate, playful and friendly. He is great with people and dogs when out and off lead, so walks are enjoyable.

Near home he’s more insecure. At home he has a few problems.

They can’t give him anything of value to chew, just the kind of thing he really needs to keep him occupied and calm, because it triggers resource guarding behaviour. In the past, growling, guarding behaviour has elicited scolding.

Instead of stopping the aggression, this confrontational approach made Cody angry. Continue reading…

Romanian Street Dog. Settling In Gently

In the photo the Romanian street dog is in a kill shelter.

Then a lady the from a local rescue saved the Romanian Mioritic Shepherd, in the nick of time. One day before execution.

Some weeks later Balou came to live with my client – into a very different world. Into a house.

No pressure.

From the start, the family have allowed their Romanian street dog, Balou, to find his feet, his big fluffy feet, without pressure.

This is perfect.

Romanian street dogHe has been allowed to decide where to sleep, where to sit, where to toilet (outside fortunately). He went upstairs when he was ready. He has been reluctant to go in the garden though that is now changing.

Balou can find very small things pressurising. For instance, he was just about to pee in the garden and the man spoke to him – probably to encourage him. Balou changed his mind and came straight in. A street dog isn’t used to someone talking to him or watching him while he has a pee!

The dog I saw isn’t the dog that first arrived. They have made great progress. He is slowly showing his true self as his confidence grows.

He is very peaceful, mostly lying about when in the house – so far! This could well change.

The one area where Balou may be under some pressure is going out on walks.

Only the man can walk him because the big dog pulls. 

He pulls?

As a Romanian street dog  he will have had one thing – freedom. Freedom to escape from other dogs. Freedom to escape from anything he doesn’t like. Held tightly on a lead he has no freedom at all and he may be becoming more reactive towards some people and some other dogs.

In this one respect only he’s not being allowed choice.

They will be perfecting loose lead walking technique on a longish lead with their Perfect Fit harness. This can be in the yard and near home until he’s relaxed.

There is simply no need to cover distance. Studies of street dogs show that they never go very far.

The walk is about information, not about exercise. The walk is about the journey.

Follow the dog!

For now they will let him do his own thing. They will let him choose where to go – and contrary to most training – they will follow the dog!

They will now resist using their own strength or holding him forcibly beside them. For Balou to feel confident he needs to feel free.

Covering ground isn’t important for now. When they get to the nearby field, instead of the lead they will put him on a long line – more freedom.

While he settles into the walking routine, they will avoid dogs and people. They will avoid going places they may have no escape route.

There’s no rush.

He just needs time.

This is necessary reading to prepare anyone for acclimatising a rescue dog  from overseas – by my friend Lisa Tenzin-Dolma.

 

Aggressive Behaviour. Why?

Aggressive behaviour, is it through fear or something else?

Delilah was in another room behind a gate when arrived, barking but not for long. Her lead was already attached to her harness. When the gate was opened she didn’t join us for several minutes. When she did, she was fine. I had laced the floor between the doorway and myself with food so she immediately picked up ‘nice smell’ on entering my presence.

No sign of aggressive behaviourShe sniffed me, wandered about and settled between myself and the lady where we sat at the dining table. She looked just like a Corgi but DNA testing revealed a mix of German Shepherd, Malamute and Miniature Poodle!

I knew that she could bark, snarl and snap at people’s legs or shoes but only in her own house or garden. She is worse with men which isn’t uncommon and she has a particular fear of boots.

As she lay beside us I was looking for signs of timidity and saw none. However, the whole time I was there she was either in front of me facing outwards – it felt like she was blocking me in – or between myself and the lady. At one stage I needed to go to the toilet so asked the lady to pick up her lead and take her out of the room to avoid stressing her until I was sitting again. She returned to the same place  – in the picture the lady is on the chair to my right.

Delilah was a Romanian street dog and for the first months of her life completely unrestricted. She then was in a shelter for nine months, loose with lots of other dogs, followed by a few months in a foster home where again there were lots of dogs and much coming and going of people.

Now she is a single dog living in a quiet cottage with only the lady. For the first two months she was the model dog, happy to see people coming into the house. Fine with other dogs when on lead.

As so often happens with dogs fitting into a completely different world, gradually this began to change.

Although I felt I should be careful indoors, Delilah was very friendly and accepting of me outside the house when we went for a short walk, happily letting me hold the lead and demonstrate loose lead walking with her.

Where indoors she may be reactive to people but not when she’s out, when outside her aggressive behaviour is towards dogs – but only when she is restrained on lead. She may may bark and lunge (not always). Off lead, however, she loves to run about, playing with any dog who is interested – as I saw for myself. She is bold and fearless.

RussellDelThe lady has been exposing Delilah to as many people and dogs as possible. She takes her to some nice training classes. She has friends coming to see her at home.

Worried about her increasing aggressive behaviour to people in the house, the lady has had a trainer visit who advocated spraying the dog with water when she showed aggression.

This tactic of spraying water sums up the very opposite of what I would do to a dog displaying fear or territorial possessiveness or even anger. The way to stop the behaviour (which is a symptom only) is to stop the emotions that cause it.

How will punishment or even a short, sharp interruptor, change emotions permanently for the better?

Okay, it may stop the actual symptom in the moment, but what then? The emotion won’t change and will probably become worse. It will fester and break out somewhere, in some way, for sure.

What about trust?

The dog is feeling deeply uncomfortable about something and then gets sprayed with water, which she won’t like, by the very person she should trust, who has been advised to do this rather than try to understand and help her out!

Fortunately the lady refused to do it.

We have several things to work on and it could take time. We are working on getting Delilah to happily accept people coming into the house with desensitisation work around the front door in particular. It’s like now she has a permanent home which is hers, she is becoming increasingly territorial. Walking legs and particularly feet with boots being a target for her aggressive behaviour which could well be influenced by a herding element in here genes, we will work on boots away from feet first, then boots on the feet of sitting people, and then people walking in boots.

The lady will do her best to show Delilah in every way she can that she doesn’t need protecting and that it’s her own job to protect their territory. The lady herself is in charge of comings and goings. We have a couple of strategies for when people come into the house including more simple management.

On walks Delilah will unfortunately need to lose some of her precious freedom and to be restricted to a long line for a while the lady works on her recall. She is so used to freelancing that she will only come when she is ready. When we were out together I held my breath as she ran off, assured she couldn’t get out of the field. I fear it’s a crisis waiting to happen. Here is a great little video from Steve Mann: ‘A Recall is a Recall‘.

On a long line she shouldn’t feel trapped when she meets other dogs. If she wants to play it can be dropped. The lady will work on her on-lead reactivity to certain other dogs.

From a noisy life where she has been one of many to a quiet life where she is the only one, Delilah is still having big adjustments to make after only three months still.

I have since been unable to get My My My Delilah out of my brain (thanks Tom Jones!).

 

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 Delilah and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. 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 issues of any kind are 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 Help page)

Roaming Free, Now on Lead

Elderly rescue dog

Charlie

Two little dogs were strays on the streets in Romania

Bonnie and Elma

Two of these little dogs had been fending for themselves on the streets of Romania.

The two girls, black and white Bonnie with little terrier Elma (both on the right) were probably abandoned pets.

The lady is an experienced dog owner – particularly with rescue dogs. She took on much older Charlie, left, seven months ago and the other two only three months later.

The three are extraordinarily well-adjusted in the circumstances. The lady has worked hard.

Sometimes it’s hard to see one’s own situation clearly and she needs some help to take things to the next stage.

Bonnie is very reactive to other dogs. With her history of roaming free on the streets and considering how quickly she fitted in with the other two dogs, I strongly suspect her reactivity has been getting worse because she is on lead.

She’s not free any more.

Nor can she be let off lead. Shortly after she arrived she disappeared for two hours.

The solution to this is largely about groundwork. The work doesn’t simply start when out on walks and they meet a dog. Fundamental is getting her full attention at home at the sound of her name along with getting instant recall when she is called around house and garden. These things need to become an automatic response.

She needs to learn how to walk nicely. Only then will the lady be ready to work on other dogs, finding the threshold distance where she still feels safe – and building up her confidence. She can help Bonnie to feel more free by making sure the lead is always slack. This is a time-consuming business and has to be taken slowly.

Over time Bonnie should begin to associate other dogs with nice stuff, instead of fear and feeling trapped on lead with a tense human holding it tight with resulting discomfort to her neck.

Fortunately neither of the other two dogs has these problems, so the lady will work on Bonnie by herself until gradually doubling her up with one of the others and then all three together.

Recall will be worked at for as long as it takes before Bonnie is ever let off lead again.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Charlie, Bonnie and Elma, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Reactive to Dogs, People and the Unexpected

Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania

Holly

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland.

Berry

Both Holly on the right and Berry on the left came to live with my clients early last year. Both dogs are between two and three years old.

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland. Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania. She was picked up at seven months old with a broken leg and then went to live with another English family before moving into her forever home.

Holly quite well illustrates the difference between Romanian street dogs that are used to being around people, and other dogs that are coming from the same part of the world but have been living wild – feral dogs not used to humans. These feral dogs are a lot harder to settle and there have been some heartbreaking stories of failed homings.

Considering their past, these two dogs are doing brilliantly. They get on very well together. The problems their humans are finding manifest themselves out on walks. Both are reactive to people and dogs. In order to make further progress the people need to do things a little differently. If they carry on the same, so will the dogs.

Romanian Holly is a little aloof, but is polite and confident in the house though reactive to dogs outside. Interestingly, she is absolutely fine with other dogs when away from home, so it seems she is being more territorial than fearful. The main barker from inside the house, she is allowed free access to upstairs window where she can bark at passing dogs. She is merely practising the unwanted behaviour and getting better at it.

Berry, on the other hand, is much more excitable in general and reactive to all people and dogs; she is alarmed if anything appears suddenly or looks unfamiliar, irrespective of where this happens to be.

Both are very clever dogs and Berry in particular, who is much more wired up than Holly, needs more controlled stimulation but also better defined boundaries – especially when out. Repeatedly throwing a stick isn’t enough (throwing sticks is dangerous).

In order to keep their dogs focussed on them when out, their humans need to be more relevant to them – starting in the home. At present the dogs probably feel that they are the main decision-makers. The decision-making and protection side of things needs to be the responsibility of ‘mum and dad’, and needs to be in place before they can expect to successfully convince their dogs that they also have this role outside when faced with perceived threats.

The humans need to be a lot more involved, proactive and relevant in the face of things that the dogs are wary of – particularly if the dog is on a lead.  They need to make themselves irresistible (food/fun/action/attention).  Tightly holding the lead makes things worse. Forcing the dog to sit can make things worse. Avoiding situations altogether is useless.

They need to avoid pushing the dog over her comfort threshold and work at it. Using this method, that threshold will gradually diminish.