Angry and frustrated. Maybe scared. Battling BOAS

easily becomes angryBuddy’s angry behaviour has escalated in the last few weeks.

The ten-month-old French Bulldog snorts and gasps. His common Frenchie breathing problem (Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome – BOAS) must make normal life a constant struggle.

If he were an adolescent human struggling to breathe, Buddy could well have a very short fuse, ready to hit out, angry at the smallest thing. Continue reading…

Too Much Excitement. Too Much Lots of Things

‘Too much’ results in stress.

Ollie’s stress levels are at the root of the problems. This said, not all stress is bad and a lot is associated with fun – but it’s too much of everythiToo much excitementng that’s the trouble.

So many things add up during the day. The eighteen-month-old Cockerpoo has to have the lady in sight all the time and panics when left alone. He barks at every sound outside. He can’t control himself when other dogs are about.

Their young children are often excited around him. Too much arousal, too much petting (and too vigorous), too much prolonged, rough or repetitive play, too much physical contact. They believe it makes him happy and it does, in a way. But it’s too much.

It was evening, the children had gone to bed and Ollie gradually settled. I watched him go and snuggle on the sofa beside the man who immediately began touching him. Ollie licked his lips, then licked his nose, then yawned. A little uncomfortable? To me it suggested the dog wanted the closeness but wasn’t asking to be touched. He soon jumped down.

When they walk past him, he will roll onto his back. They assume it’s because he wants a tummy rub. Really? It will depend upon context, but often it will be appeasement. “Please leave me alone.”

Why should Ollie be so stressed?

I saw for myself how easily he becomes anxious. Sadly, as a twelve-week-old puppy, right in the middle of his first fear period, he had a painful medical problem that resulted in his being confined for six weeks.

Ollie is a lovely friendly dog. He should be having a lovely life. He has love, attention, play, walks and the best food, so why should he be stressed? It’s about everything in moderation. There is, simply, too much.

There may however be ‘too little’ of the things he really needs – down time, sniffing time, closeness without necessarily being touched, peace and quiet without being alone, brain work, healthy stimulation.

So, I would say that cutting down on the intensity of everything will make a big difference. This has to be the starting point. At the same time, we will introduce activities that help him to reduce stress and to use his brain, instead of working him up into a frenzy of excitement.

One very interesting thing they told me is that Ollie loves a tight-fitting garment they dressed him up in for an occasion last year. Recently, sniffing a box, he dug down and dragged it out. He then he took it off and lay on it. Apparently, when he was wearing it Ollie seemed calm and happy which is why they felt he liked it. This started me thinking. How does he react when his harness goes on, I asked? He’s calmer then also.

From this I just guess that there’s a good chance of him being one of those dogs a Thundershirt or Ttouch wrap could help.

Other dogs send him onto a high

Here is another strange thing. Ollie is only aggressive to other dogs when his humans are eating! If there is dog food or bones about he’s okay.

He has only ever shown aggression to humans when other dogs are around.

Ollie’s arousal levels shoot through the roof when he’s near dogs. He is so desperate to play that he overwhelms them. In his uncontrolled way, he charges about, jumping over them and has nearly bowled over a couple of owners who were not pleased. The presence of other dogs gives Ollie such a high that he’s uncontrollable. The lady is now anxious about walking him.

First things first

Number one priority, then, is to calm him down a bit. Then after two or three weeks I will go again and see what we then have and what we need to do next.


I went back to see Ollie yesterday, a couple of months after my first visit. He’s a changed dog. I introduced his lady owner to clicker training and the lady and clever Ollie mastered a hand touch on cue in about fifteen minutes. Here they are.
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 Ollie and the because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  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 fear or aggression is 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)

Learned Behaviour and a Lovely Lurcher

Learned behaviour that needs to be un-learned.

Four months ago a dishevelled, grey, skinny dog in dreadful condition stepped out in front of my client’s car.

After a visit to the vet and a bath, he turned out to be a mostly white Lurcher.

They traced his past from a microchip and were able to keep him.

What a great life Alfie now has.

Alfie has brought with him what I’m sure is some learned behaviour from his past life and it’s now causing problems.

The lady is a dog walker and has two other dogs of her own.

The young Lurcher pesters other dogs with too much excited and mouthy play, whether they want it or not. He seems unable to pick up their signals. He won’t leave them alone and he will scruff them, irrespective of the size of the dog.

Alfie just won’t take no for an answer unless a dog gets very cross with him.

This is bad news for the lady who is a dog walker.

This learned behaviour is constantly rehearsed at home. Tiny Yorkie Chihuahua mix Pip is very playful and sometimes even goads him into it.

Play consists of Alfie grabbing her by the her neck or she puts her head in his mouth. He doesn’t shake her. He self-handicaps because she is so small and she is a willing participant. He doesn’t hurt her.

However, not all other dogs are willing participants like Pip. Alfie just doesn’t seem to get this.

He simply won’t leave them alone.

While he still rehearses the learned behaviour it will continue – it may even get worse.

This type of play can be better controlled at home with Pip. The lady can work on a method at home to teach Alfie stuff he should have learned when a puppy. She can adapt the same process when she is out, when Alfie either is with the dogs she walks and with dogs they meet.

Alfie and Pip will learn a STOP signal when she feels enough is enough. She will call both dogs to her and reward them for dong so.learned behavour

If Alfie then goes straight back, I suggest the lady walks out of the room for a couple of minutes. He will stop anything he is doing to follow her if he can.

Four months ago the lady couldn’t even walk out of sight without Alfie panicking. She has done very well and can now leave him for up to an hour so long as he’s with the other dogs.

If, after walking out, Alfie goes straight back for more, she can separate the two dogs for a while to calm down.

The more arousal there is ‘in the air’ the more this sort of play happens, so avoiding winding him up is vital. When left alone, away from humans, the dogs don’t do it (they have videoed them). Often dogs only play when their humans are about.

It will be hard work but if this is a habit to be broken the couple must be consistent and work at it.

On walks they have tried muzzling Alfie to spare other dogs, but he goes wild and body-slams them instead. He will now be on a long line attached to a harness. She can call him to her as soon as (or before) he starts. She will always reward him even if he needs to be reeled in.

If he goes straight back for more she can walk off briskly in the opposite direction. Knowing Alfie, he will forget about the dog if he thinks she might leave him.

This learned behaviour needs to be un-learned.

It has probably been rehearsed over and over for much of his eighteen months, so it’s only constant repetition of a different behaviour that will stop it. It’s also possibly a sighthound ‘thing’.

It sounds to me like he may have lived with lots of dogs in his early days, mainly unsupervised. Just guesswork of course.

Here is a nice quote from a Dog Trust fact sheet: ‘Sometimes the unwanted behaviour can become learned by the dog, and then he will use it automatically when under stress or motivated. This means that the dog has no choice over whether he shows that behaviour or not under those circumstances, which makes punishment very unfair and ineffective. If punishment is used, it can make the problem much worse since this will increase stress and fear in the dog even further.’

When Alfie is playing nicely or just politely near to another dog, this should be recognised and reinforced too. Good Boy. Well Done. Food. He’s not interested in playing ball. If he were, she could reward him with a game instead.

In time he should learn to play nicely so long as they help him to read when the other dog isn’t willing or the play isn’t equal by calling him away.

Alfie has settled into his new life so well in just four months. His separation issues are improving and the only real shadow over them is his behaviour with other dogs.


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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Alfie 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. 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)



Cesar Millan Versus Force-Free

Cesar Millan? No!

Instead – watch videos of Chirag Patel, Victoria Stilwell, Steve Mann, Nando Brown, Zak George – a huge list of modern force-free trainers doing a much better job but without the same publicity machine and sadly not on National Geographic or prime time TV.

Cesar Millan methods not workingThe big question is, do you want an obedient dog that may lick her lips, look away or even cower from you when she is doing something you don’t like, or a confident cheerful dog that happily stops when asked and does something else instead? Who may even, sometimes, dare to be a bit cheeky?

This is a great exaggeration of the situation I found, but when someone says something like they don’t want a dog on the sofa because it will make her dominant I can’t help jumping onto my bandwagon. Not on the sofa? Fine. It can be taught simply and kindly using positive reinforcement. Reason? Plain silly.

I have called to see ten month old Athena a couple of weeks after she came to live with them because she is having separation issues, toileting on the floor when left for a short while and causing damage. This was upsetting for the young couple who are completely committed to giving Athena a good life, whatever it takes. They have a dog walker twice a day and the two dogs aren’t left alone for very long.

As she becomes more confident, as I’m sure when any Cesar Millan methods have been dropped, things will improve.

Very few people I go to use the language of Cesar Millan with the Tch Tch corrections, the Alpha rolls or worry about status. This isn’t because he has fewer followers (his TV programme still glamorises the old-school way dog training was done back in the dark ages when people didn’t know better, using wolf pack theory as an excuse). It’s because I send people here to my website to read some of these stories before booking me. They will know in advance that I use kind, force-free methods only and if that’s not what they want I won’t hear from them again.

Cesar Millan plugs into today’s need for achieving things instantly, but it’s an illusion. Smoke and mirrors. (Incidentally, he invented a special dog collar called an ‘Illusion’ collar that forces up high into the most sensitive area behind the dog’s ears, causing maximum pain if the dog pulls).

Holding an animal down through force, or keeping it down because it dare not get up isn’t teaching an animal to lie down. Correcting a dog that pulls on lead with a little kick, a lead pop with his Illusion collar or a jerk with a prong collar isn’t teaching the dog to walk happily beside you because it wants to. Facing down a dog who is growling isn’t going to make it feel less fearful or less angry.

Cesar Millan is all about (as fast as possible) altering the visible behaviours – the actions. The emotions will get worse.

Modern force-free work is about altering what the dog is feeling inside – the emotions. The emotions drive the behaviours. The behaviours will get better.

I must stress again that the lovely young couple I went to yesterday do none of these things. Not at all. One or two things have prompted this post. Dominance and gentle correction is used like a methodology in the sincere belief that it’s the right thing to do – by the man mostly. The young lady finds it hard.

I have several times seen for myself what can happen with a dog that is controlled by domination when the dominant human isn’t present. I have felt unsafe.

For those interested in how modern dog training and behaviour has got to where it is today, here it is by the great Ian Dunbar.

I’m sure that they aren’t doing as well with Athena as they otherwise might if the man had never, ever watched Cesar Milan but he is already seeing things from a different perspective which is great.



The main problem now is that over the two weeks they have had her Athena has taken to playing more and more roughly with their gorgeous, good-natured little Border Terrier Baxter. Immediately they are out in the garden together she stands over him before embarking on what can only be called bullying. The previous day she had grabbed his leg and dragged him about; she grabs him around the neck. Where a couple of weeks ago they played nicely it has deteriorated and Baxter is getting scared. Fortunately it’s only happening in the garden (so far).

They police her with frequent NO and Tch Tch so why is it getting worse?

There is no doubt that adolescent Husky mix Athena respects the man and there is no doubt that the man loves her. He makes the Tch Tch noise he’s learnt from Cesar Millan and she stops what she is doing. Success. She will be a little scared of him at times. When he’s not there Athena may however ignore the lady who admits that at times in the garden the neighbours listening to her must think she is constantly telling the dog off.

The couple had asked me would I like to see what happens in the garden? I said no, definitely not.

I don’t want it to happen ever again.

Much more rehearsal and it will become a habit more difficult to break..

I had food in my pocket (yes – food, Cesar Millan). We stood in the garden and I called Athena to me so she knew that coming to me would be worthwhile next time. Sod’s law, we were out in the garden and Athena was taking little notice of Baxter!

This is what I was preparing to do. As soon as Athena looked like advancing on Baxter, I would have called her gently to me. I would do this repeatedly. I would either reward her with food or maybe a short game of tug if play is what she really wants.

I would have a long line ready just in case. She must never never have the opportunity to do it again. The two dogs should not be in the garden together without supervision for the foreseeable future.

Tch Tch and ‘No’ teaches her nothing at all but just stirs her up further. Athena’s behaviour is doubtless due to stress. She is trying to get used to her new life after all.

If they treat Athena like they would a young child and not as something to be kept at the bottom of the pack, using only encouragement and kindness, they will end up with a confident and outward-looking dog. I can’t imagine anyone saying a child can’t get on a sofa because it might want to take over as ruler of the household.

You just have to watch this video of Steve Mann of IMDT to see that a strong man can be empathetic and force-free with his very well-trained little dog.

Quite simply, it works the best.


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 Athena and Baxter and I’ve not gone into exact 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 (Cesar Millan being one such example) as the case needs to be assessed correctly. 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)

British Bulldog Biting Feet

English Bulldogs

Bentley and Flo

Bentley was very excited when I arrived, and his jumping up seemed to be relentless. This was my responsibility because I had asked the owners to leave the dogs alone so I could see what they would do whilst demonstrateing my way of dealing with it.

English Bulldog Bentley is now fourteen months old so if their usual way of stopping him jumping up worked – which was to tell him to get down or to grab him – he wouldn’t be doing it any more. His super-arousal then caused Flo to ‘tell him off’. It is for this reason that I wear tough clothes – to protect my back and my legs from dogs’ nails and of course I would always ask for their help if I needed it.

Scolding the dog may get him down at that moment, but it doesn’t teach him not to jump at people the next time. In fact the attention probably makes it even more likely. The question to ask is, what’s the dog getting out of it (probably attention of some sort) and to remove this reinforcement. To make success quicker, this desired attention can be given to him for doing something more acceptable instead.

The days start calmly enough apart from Bentley’s barking at 3am demanding to be let out, but as the day progresses and people start to move about the dogs become increasingly excitable. This leads to Bentley jumping and grabbing people or chasing and biting feet. He targets the adult son in particular who feels he’s being mugged every time he walks through the door.

I did some ‘walking around’ work with the son, showing him to move more slowly and instead of throwing food across the floor so he can make a dash for it, dropping little bits of grated cheese just behind his feet as he walked. This has the added benefit of rewarding Bentley for following nicely without nipping or jumping. Instead of trying to escape, he can talk to Bentley, call him and invite him to follow him, giving him some of the craved-for attention for doing as he’s asked.

English Bulldog

Flo with a sort jowl

Key to the plan has to be a gate in the sitting room doorway. Currently the dogs have the run of the downstairs and there is no escaping them. The gate should not be opened until they have had time to calm down and feet are on the floor. That will make life far easier for everyone.

There can also be minor fights over bones and chews which means these useful resources for helping a dog to unwind aren’t available to them. A gate means the dogs can have calming things to do and chew whilst not being able to actually get to one another.

When I was there the two had been out in the garden for a while and we heard barking. When they came in Bentley had an extra small cut on his neck to add to existing scars and Flo’s face was red and sore around her jowl. The two dogs are allowed to play too roughly. I would step in a lot sooner because, just like the nipping of feet, the more the behaviour is rehearsed the more entrenched the behaviour becomes.

Removing opportunity for unwanted behaviours is the starting point so the two dogs shouldn’t be left alone together out of sight for more than a couple of minutes unless they are lying down and relaxed. With a bit of forward-planning quite a bit of temptation can be removed. For instance, as a favourite trick of Bentley’s is to attack feet when people go outside to the washing line, why don’t they leave him indoors?

In order to find out more about their dogs, new owners often start by reading breed-specific books and talking to the breeder or other owners of the breed which can give them a skewed view of dogs in general. They often attribute behaviours to inevitable breed traits, excusing things that aren’t really desirable from any dog, whatever the breed. The books may say Bulldogs are ‘stubborn’, but that simply means we need to be more motivating. Other owners may say their Bulldogs like to ‘play rough’, but that merely means we have to be even better ‘dog parents’. Rough play isn’t a good behaviour to rehearse for the sake of other dogs or people – particularly children.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley and Flo, 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 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).

Dog grabbed a child by the arm

Rescue Cane Corso cross pup has grabbed a child by the arm


The young Mastiff’s Future is In Their Hands

Six month old Mastiff/Cane Corso mix has grabbed a child by the arm, and now he’s in trouble. The police have called.

Dexter is enormous already. It’s possible that if he were a spaniel there would have been little fuss.

He has lived with the young couple and their Mastiff Labrador mix Marnie for a few weeks now, having had a very dubious start in life.  Apart from a lot of mouthing, all went well for a while.

Then they had a young lady visitor to the house. She was scared just at the sight of Dexter. She sat on the sofa and Dexter jumped up onto it as he usually does. The lady threw her arms about and Dexter, puppy that he is, grabbed her arm.

The reaction was panic and anger towards Dexter. The guest left.

The child episode happened a couple of weeks later in the vet waiting room. She walked too close. If a child is taken to the vet, surely it’s common sense to keep it away from dogs that may well be stressed and scared, so some of the blame is with the mother. Poor Dexter had patiently endured being pulled about and the removal of stitches and they were simply standing at the desk waiting to pay.

The man dragged the dog away and in doing so the his tooth caught on the child’s jumper leaving also a small mark on her arm. Again there will have been noise and panic.

Things are now stacking up against Dexter and he is on the route to actually biting someone. By now he will be thinking that people are not good to be around and they cause his own humans to be unpredictable.

When I arrived I had been primed and played very safe, and Dexter was brought in on lead. I sat alone on a chair to avoid being jumped over. I had to work hard to get the man to stop being on Dexter’s case and to relax. I explained that he would only be picking up on the man’s anxiety which could make me less safe.

The dog turned out to be the most mellow and friendly dog imaginable. See my picture of him watching me intently as I spoke gently to him. I later tried some Ttouch massage. He rested beside me, totally relaxed. I loved him.

Because he’s so big it is easy to forget Dexter’s only a puppy and bound to chew things. Both dogs need to be taken out for daily walks and Dexter given more healthy stimulation – plenty of chew toys and constructive interaction with his humans.

There must be no rough play as this only encourages arm grabbing and lack of self-control.

If they want people to come to their house, they will need to start teaching both big dogs not to jump all over the sofas – unless perhaps upon invitation and then only when they are calm.

The couple must now go out of their way to associate all the people Dexter encounters with nice stuff – food, fun and happiness. No more panic and anxiety; no more scolding. They will teach him to give them his full attention when asked.  It’s a measure of how much they care for their dog that they are investing time and money to give their dog the life he deserves.

This can be nipped in the bud, but only with a different approach.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Dexter, 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 – most particularly where any form of aggression is concerned. 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).



Pug Barks at Everything

Stressed pug plays too roughly with puppy


Stanley is being taught to be rough and over-excited


 Lola barks at planes and birds and bees. She barks at the door bell, at animals on TV and at the young sons’ Nintendo game sounds. She barks at other dogs if she can’t get to them. She barks at everything.

Lola, left, is a two-year-old Pug and the new addition is Stanley, just nine weeks of age.

The new problem since a week ago when Stanley arrived is that the two dogs constantly chase and play rather roughly  – something Lola also does with other dogs given the chance.

A nine-week-old puppy needs a lot of rest. It is a period of learning – so the lessons need to be the right things. He needs to learn how to fit in with family life and to be gentle. He needs to learn impulse control.

Duration of playtime should be limited. Just as with children, too much pushing and shoving can ‘end in tears’. It would be different if they were both puppies of a similar age and size when they would be learning bite inhibition and give and take, and would both have matching stamina.

This scenario simply means the puppy is learning to become very excitable like Lola – and rough.

A while ago I went to a puppy that had started to show aggression to the family due to the relentless rough play with the older dog, so I am glad they have nipped this in the bud.

The more excitement and stress Lola is under generally, the more she barks! Telling a dog to ‘shut up’ when a dog is barking may temporarily quieten it (perhaps!) but does nothing to address the dog’s emotions which are causing it all.

A great deal of time and patience will be needed.

At a quiet time when the puppy is asleep and the young boys at school, the lady can sit in the garden with Lola and start teaching her to cope with all the sounds, birds, bees and so on. She will teach Lola to be quiet using food. As soon as she alerts and before she barks, the lady will ‘mark’ the quiet behaviour with a special sound and food.

When barking does break out, they won’t scold. They will deal with it in a similar way as they would if one of their little boys started to shout in panic – by helping her out – by showing her that alarm is not necessary because they are there to protect her, and by helping her learn self-control.

All the stressful things in Lola’s days stack up to make her so extremely reactive, so the calmer they can keep her in general the better. This is not easy with two young boys, visiting children – and puppy Stanley!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Lola, 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 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Rough Play. Double Trouble

rough play and double troubleButter wouldn’t melt!!! Here they are lying next to me.

Chico and Sheba are an unusual mix of Staffie and Corgi. The one-year-old brother and sister are very friendly, gentle dogs. Absolutely wonderful……and… times…..MANIC!

Constant rough play

When I arrived it was bedlam with their constant rough play. The sofa and house is slowly being demolished by them. Their two young gentlemen owners have now laid their third stair carpet, and the re-turfed lawn is now wasteland again.

The trouble started when they took on Sheba a few months after Chico. More than Double Trouble!

Puppy Chico


It is so clear that the dogs reflect each individual owner that it would be laughable if not so exasperating. The two men work at different times, so the dogs spend quite a lot of time with just one or other.

With one man they are settled and there are no problems at all.

With the other they never stop! They wreck things even while he’s in the house. They play fight constantly. They fly all over the place. Whilst also getting very cross he encourages them with the sort of games he plays – it’s like he’s one of the dogs!

The other young man, however, is quite clear in what is acceptable and what is not. He hardly has to try. It just comes naturally to him.

Some boundaries!

When both men are out, the door to the garden may be left open and the dogs rampage in and out, doing damage. They are perfectly happy crated, so that is how it will be from now on!

Like many couples I go to, it’s difficult when the people do things differently. It can cause conflict between them and confusion for the dogs. Hopefully, now that I have been and we have agreed a plan, they will read from the same page so to speak. These lovely dogs should calm right down, stop damaging the house, cut down on the rough play, be given mental stimulation and learn some self-control.

The only way they will become good doggy citizens is if their humans change. One young man has a bit more adjusting to do than the other, but I know he’s up to it. Being too soft isn’t actually kind and in this case leads to two aroused dogs looking frantically for things on which to redirect their pent up stress – like rough play. They both adore the dogs – and who could help it? They are wonderful.

Over-Stimulated. How Can Terrier Gain Self-Control?

Over-stimulated Parsons Terrier uncharacteristically calm Who could fail to love Riley! He can be rather too much though! He’s a one year old Parsons Russell Terrier; he flies all over people and is extremely excitable.

Stimulating an already over-stiimulated dog like this with even more exercise and play can backfire. It all depends upon the quality of the exercise and play.

Out running in fields, doing his own thing, sniffing, chasing and playing with other dogs until he’s really tired is perfect – or would be if his recall was good enough. Pulling down the road on lead, straining to jump up at all the people he passes and panting to go and play with other dogs while he chokes himself must be very frustrating for him. It will have the reverse effect to a healthy, tiring walk.

It’s the same with play. Rough house, rolling around, chasing and getting him wild is going to make an already over-stimulated dog far worse.

How to calm down an over-stimulated dog?

Thinking games, impulse-control games, ‘come when called’ games and hunting games are what he needs.

He is super-excited before going out, he’s excited before meals and he’s very excited when they come home or when anyone comes to the house. All this excitement is, unwittingly, encouraged and fed into by his humans because it always results in what he wants. It needs to be controlled behaviour that gets the results he wants.

The problem that bothers the young couple the most is his uncontrollable behaviour when friends and family come to the house. This is an issue not to be addressed head-on alone. He first needs to learn to control his urge to fly all over his own people when they sit down, and not to launch himself at them when they arrive home.

They can teach him this with lots of short comings and goings, welcoming him calmly only when his feet are on the floor. If ‘Get Down’ worked, he wouldn’t be doing it any more!

Not all doggy daycare is good.

They have just discovered that at the doggy daycare Riley has been tied to a post with a head halter. From the photo I assume it was to keep him under control. On the last day the minder also talked of sedating him and he came back with a cut on his face, from forcing his way out of a crate. If daycare couldn’t cope with him (and I wouldn’t blame them for that at all) they should have said. He won’t be going back there.

Firstly these ‘trigger’ occasions need to become less exciting, and only his humans can do anything about that. It’s unwittingly mostly due to them that he is so over-stimulated. He needs to find quiet behaviour and feet on the floor a lot more rewarding. Finally and most importantly, he needs to learn some alternative behaviour that is incompatible with what he currently does in order to redirect his inner eagerness. It will take a while.

He’s such a lovely, friendly and sociable little dog, and it will be good when at last they can freely have him in the room with them when their friends and their children, or family and baby neice, come to the house.

Super-sensitive Nervous Border Collie

When I took this photo yesterday of two-year-old Poppy I didn’t realise she had a halo!nervous Border Collie with halo

Poppy was a very nervous puppy from the start. They have worked hard with her and have come a long way. However, typical of her breed but exceptionally so with Poppy, she is very highly tuned and sensitive. A sound that might make some dogs barely open their eyes, has Poppy running for cover.

A couple of times she has gone for men’s legs – fortunately not breaking skin – and she is a scared ‘Collie chaser’ – of traffic and horses. She sometimes walks with four Cocker Spaniels, and spends the entire walk rounding them up, which unsurprisingly annoys one of them.

Too boisterous for the nervous Border Collie

Although she is an excellent family dog and lovely with their little boy, family life may not be ideally suited to her. Not only should she be a working dog, but also the nervous Border Collie can’t cope with lots of noise and action. Her very sociable male owner would admit that he is on the boisterous side! He ‘rough-houses’ with her and can be volatile with a fairly short fuse.

The signs of fear aggression are getting worse. Instead of understanding her sensitivity and working with it, an angry response is adding fuel to the situation. Not only is she scared of approaching men she does’t know and of some dogs, at the same time she has to be scared of her own humans because they may act, to her, irrationally when she feels she is defending herself.

Reducing stress levels vital

Confidence boosting with Poppy is all about keeping her stress levels as low as possible. Stress builds up at a faster rate than it dissipates. Subjecting her to unecessary things that can be avoided like the lawn mower, machinery, dragging her past barking dogs, indulging in over-stimulating play, sounding cross with her, allowing access to the front window to watch and bark at things going past the house, leaving her to rush up and down in the garden barking at horses behind the hedge, and finally a diet with too high a protein content – all mean her ‘stress bucket’ is constantly on the point of overflowing.

She needs some breed-specific enrichment to counter the urge to chase and herd.

From a calmer base the nervous Border Collie will be able to handle some of the unavoidable things life throws at her, like fortnightly gun shoots in the field behind. We can’t always just change the dog. It’s the humans that need to change what they do.