Nips Small Children. Scared of Men.

Callie nips little children.

She’s okay with women but isn’t happy too near small children – or some men.

Nips small childrenShe welcomed me in a friendly fashion with lots of sniffs and a couple of little jumps but I took little notice of her until I had sat down. Then I gently said hello. She immediately and subtly shrank away a little.

The little Jack Russell Chihuahua mix is probably more nervous generally than they realise. People often find it hard to read the more subtle signs in their dog’s body language.

She had had four homes before she was even four months old. A man was giving away Callie and her tiny siblings in a car park. The crucial formative weeks of her life won’t have been the best.

However, fortune shone on her when she came to live with the couple, my clients. Continue reading…

Shy Dog. Scared of Men. GSD Mix Looks Like Tamascan

Tala is shy with people she doesn’t know. She is particularly scared of men.

shy dogA year ago she was rescued from an abusive situation. Where shy dogs are very often more frightened of men than of women, it may be that Tala has particular reason to be shy of men.

She now lives in a lovely family. It took her time to relax with the two men when she came to them from the RSPCA a year ago, but now she’s soft, funny and loving. Continue reading…

Big Change in Poppy’s Life. Wary of People, Traffic and Dogs

What a big change in living style the mix-breed terrier has had.

It seems Poppy came from a fairly manic household with comings and goings, unpredictable young people and lots of noise. Judging by how she may now wince or recoil from hands, it’s very likely she wasn’t handled very kindly.

It’s possible a man treated her harshly, though it is common for nervous dogs to be more afraid of men than of women.

Not sorry to lose her

They asked one of the older children if they were sorry to see her go. The child said, ‘Not really’. Continue reading…

Whippet Lurcher is Scared of Men

Tilly was a stray dog found on the streets in Greece along with a male dog from whom she was inseparable and who now also has a new home. She is one year old and some sort of whippet cross.

Tilly is a remarkably stable dog in all respects bar one – she is still, after four months of living with the couple, very wary of the gentleman of the house, this is despite the man doing nearly everything for Tilly because the lady is often away for a week at a time for her work. Many dogs that have not suffered abuse are scared of men.

Tilly is worst of all when he is standing up or walking about. One can only guess at what must have happened to her earlier at the hands of a man, perhaps the dog-catcher. Apparently the other dog is even more scared of men, which is a tribute to the efforts Tilly’s people have put in so far.

Sitting on the sofa with the lady, I watched as the man walked around the room, making us a coffee. Tilly made sure she had the kitchen table between her and him, eyes darting, tail between her legs and licking her lips.

When he sat down on the L-shaped sofa, Tilly jumped straight up too but as far away from him as she could, between the lady and myself. Here was his dog, snuggling up to me and kissing my nose, whereas if the man so much as moved on the other end of the sofa she shrank back into the seat (see her picture). He feels so very hurt. He is the sweetest, gentlest of men and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my saying that he’s not a macho type. He has tried so hard with her.

The fact that the other two little dogs (photos below) enjoy his cuddles doesn’t seem to help Tilly at all.

Here is a very short video of Tilly thinking the man may be about to stand up, but relaxing when he doesn’t.

He really does adore her, but I feel his efforts to make her accept him are the crux of  the stalemate they have now reached. He needs to start behaving in a way that doesn’t come naturally to him – with some indifference.  I believe that all the effort he makes is, in a way, driving her away. There is too much pressure upon on her (I have had personal experience of this when I took on my German Shepherd, Milly).

Weirdly, off lead out on walks with lots of space she is a different dog, running about and playing, and (mostly) coming back to him when called, but at home, before they can go, she runs around before cowering in a corner for him to put collar and lead on her. Again, it does make one wonder whether it was a dog-catcher that caused her problems with men. Once collar and lead are on, he gives her a fuss – but I did point out to him that at thLittle dog being cuddledis stage a fuss was in effect punishment to her. It can be hard for a loving human to see this from the dog’s point of view.

I am certain that playing harder to get is the answer and to release her of all obligation to come to him or to be touched by him. Easing of all pressure by acting indifferent is one half of the plan for desensitisation. The other is counter-conditioning.

She will now only be fed dog food at meal times and the special stuff – chicken – will be used for ‘man’ work. Starting at a level she could tolerate, each time the man moved and Tilly looked at him, we said a quiet ‘yes’ and fed her. We gradually upped the ante until he stood up and sat down again, all the time feeding her. When he walked around it became too much for her – she ran off to the other side of the kitchen table.

While he walks about, as obviously he must, he will either silently throw food to her as he passes or drop it behind him as he walks, encouraging her to follow him rather than to run away. If he can manage to resist words and eye contact, she will slowly relax I’m sure.

He will become a walking ‘chicken vending machine’! In time she will associate him only with good stuff.Crested Powder Puff

If he resists approaching her in any way for long enough, the time will come when she actively invites his attention, and I feel he should still hold back! To value it, she needs to have to work for it (rather than, as she probably now feels, it being forced upon her). She needs to learn that coming over to him doesn’t result in something that is (to her at the moment) punishing.

I am sure, if he takes things sufficiently slowly and resists showering her with demonstrative love until she is well and truly ready, all will be well eventually. It’s a question of building up her trust.

One month later: ‘Tilly is doing exceptionally well and is turning into a fantastic lady. She is incredible on recall and sits down for her lead in the morning. She sits for her treats etc on the run and walks beautifully. She still goes under the bed but is first on the bed in the morning to lick JIms’s face and licks his hands a number of times during the night to say hello. We are delighted with the progress. Jim is grinning from ear to ear and is very proud of ‘their’ progress. As I write Tilly is lying with her head on Jim’s lap.’

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

Speak Quietly and Dog Will Listen

Poodle Bosco is a confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good 'dog parenting'.

Bosco

Denver, an ex stud dog in a puppy farm, was rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales

Denver

Two gorgeous Toy Poodles! They have had ten-year-old black Bosco since he was a puppy and the confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good ‘dog parenting’.

Denver they rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales a couple of years ago and he was used as a stud dog in a puppy farm. The damage done to these dogs with years of being being pent up and complete lack of early socialisation is awful. He is about five years old. Initially he spent most of his time hiding – especially from the man. They have come a long, long way with him since then but now need that final push, someone with experience who can see things through different eyes.

Denver will still make a wide berth around the gentleman, running to hide under the kitchen table from where he watches in ‘safety’. Where cajolling and trying to win him over has gone some of the way, I feel running around trying to please him is exerting its own pressure upon Denver. The man in particular needs more of a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Both little dogs have too much freedom with dog flap left open day and night, even when the couple are out. They graze on food permanently left down. Some basic boundaries should also go some way to making Denver feel more secure.

He keeps his distance – quietly watching – on alert. He was wary of me; with my body angled away and my hand slowly out with a piece of cheese, he gently took it from me then quickly backed away to safety.

Little Denver needs to learn to happily engage with the man as he does now with the lady, so I showed him what I would myself do. I first demonstrated with Bosco so Denver could watch him being rewarded with cheese. Looking away from him, I then very quietly and gently asked Denver to sit which he did at a distance of about six feet from me. I gently tossed him cheese. When he was just one inch closer I asked him to sit again – cheese. In this way, over a period of days or maybe even weeks, the man will get Denver close to him – he can even earn some of his daily food quota in this way. The reason I asked Denver to sit was so he might feel the food was for doing something easy – sitting – rather than doing something very hard which was to engage directly with the man.

Once Denver is sitting close, he can hand him the food rather than drop it on the floor. Next step is to touch him just once before feeding – and so on. Later on he can gradually be taught to ‘touch’ people’s hands and to look them in the eye using clicker-type method (operant conditioning). The secret is to break everything down into tiny steps and to be very patient.

While this process is being worked on, the man must make no attempt to touch Denver at any time. If he plays sufficiently hard to get for long enough, the little dog should eventually feel safe enough to actually choose to be touched.

Denver keeps his distance - quietly watching - on alert.

Denver

I demonstrated with Bosco who had been taught lots of actions just how effective speaking very softly and saying the word only once can be. The dog focusses. A firm command is not far short of using physical force in order to make a dog do something and therefore exerts pressure of a kind. A gentle ‘request’ means the dog feels he’s choosing to do what we want.

Think ‘request’, not ‘command’!

Patience is something these people have already demonstrated over the past two years that they have in abundance.

Suffered Abuse from Young Men as a Puppy. Fallout

Suffered abuse as a puppyTwo year old Mastiff X Bobby is a delightful, gentle dog who understandably is wary of men – most especially young men wearing hoods.

Abuse at the hands of male youths

He had an tragic start in life, suffering cruel abuse. He belonged to a group of youths who tried to force the gentle dog to be aggressive.

The lady has had him for one year now. At home he is calm, and he’s quite relaxed with a lot of physical attention and fussing from the teenage daughter. He fine with lady visitors. He is very uneasy around men, however particularly any man walking directly towards him or putting his hand out to him. Each time the son comes home from uni, it still takes Bobby a couple of days to relax with him.

The lady has worked very hard with Bobby over the past year and he has already come a long way. To start with he was so scared that he would frequently urinate when any sort of pressure was put on him. Now it seems that only high voices cause him to pee and occasionally interaction with a man. One has to wonder what sort of teasing and goading he must have endured.

The fallout from the abuse as a very young dog still has a hold on him.

Increasing distance from men

Unfortunately over the past few weeks there have been several incidents where he has ‘air-snapped’ warnings at men.

In one case his teeth met the man’s knuckles – if he had intended to bite there would have been more damage. Another man approaching and carrying a can of beer resulted in Bobby crouching and running at him, catching his leg before running off very scared.

The behaviour has started to include male neighbours and a man in their house.

It is a sort of vicious circle. Bobby feels threatened and is doing what comes naturally to a dog in the circumstances in order to protect himself – giving a warning by way of air-snap. The understandably emotional reactions of the men and his lady owner are increasingly making his apprehension of men worse.

Bobby needs help

Bobby needs to know that his lady owner is there to look out for him and protect him – in ways that he understands. He needs to be able to trust her.

Acknowledging his fear of males, she will now be sensitive when approaching a man directly. She will make sure the man understands the situation and ask him not to come too close, to avoid eye contact and to keep his hands away. She will explain the past abuse.

Whenever there is any doubt Bobby will for now wear a muzzle so that there is absolutely no risk whilst he learns to feel protected. The lady will do everything to help him overcome his fear of all men. She will make sure he comes immediately to her side when called, no matter what.

She loves him dearly and knows that if he bites someone for real, poor Bobby, despite the abuse, will pay the ultimate price