They are not enjoying their two lovely dogs as they should.
Marley is a three-year-old Rottie German Shepherd cross, a beautiful dog. He’s a little on the nervous side with new people, but particularly uneasy on walks where he is reactive to other dogs (he’s always on lead) and scared of traffic.
Rottie Staffie mix Bella had been a stray whom they adopted a few months ago. Marley hadn’t been castrated and Bella was also entire – so no prizes for guessing what happened next! Nine weeks ago Bella had nine puppies! They have managed to find good homes for all of them which is an achievement.
The two dogs lack sufficient healthy stimulation and seem to be getting more stressed – a gauge of which is the level of play that breaks out between them when things get a bit too much for them. They don’t have things about to chew or to do, so excess energy boils over.
Most particularly the family members aren’t enjoying walking the dogs. This is sad. If the people are finding walking a real drag, the dogs will be picking up on this. A walk should be a joyful occasion for them. Marley even tries to avoid going out with one of the family members on account of her lack of patience – getting cross and using physical restraint and control. It is so understandable because trying to walk with pulling reactive dogs can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t know any other way. It becomes a battle. It was the same for me many years ago, so I understand.
They dare not let Bella off lead in particular as they are sure she would run off. Neither dog pays much attention when asked to come. I am often surprised to hear the tone of voice with which people call their dogs. If someone called me like that, I wouldn’t come either!
I saw that they very seldom rewarded the dogs in any way. We work better for pay and so do dogs – their currency usually being food. It was amazing how fast we taught Bella to sit, to stay sitting and to lie down – using food rewards. She became focussed and motivated.
Trying to stop our dogs doing unwanted behaviours can sometimes be overwhelming. Life is one big ‘no’. It can completely change people’s attitude when they look for alternatives to give the dogs – ‘yes, do this instead’.
They will be working on Marley and Bella coming to them when called with ‘recall games’ around the house until it becomes second nature to them, and then on a long line when out.
With the walking they will be going back to the beginning and starting again, getting rid of the retractable lead and Halti and using comfortable harnesses – preferably where the lead hooks onto the chest. They can teach the dogs to walk near them on a longish loose lead, one at a time. They will walk the dogs individually for several very short sessions a day to start with.
Meanwhile, by pretending another dog appears, they can rehearse what to do so when they see another dog for real they are ready. They have a strategy in place to deal with Marley’s lunging, barking and trying to chase away busses and motorbikes – giving him an alternative behaviour and an escape route.
Most of all, by starting all over again with different equipment and a different technique, using encouragement and rewards and taking things slowly, walks will start to be FUN. If the humans start to find walks enjoyable, then for sure so will the dogs.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Marley and Bella, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here as to the methods I have suggested. 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 tailored to your own dog (see my Get Help page).