Ethel can be two different dogs.
She is friendly and confident around people when out of the house whether she knows them or not. She enjoys visits to a cafe and days at daycare.
At home the young Cockerpoo is a different dog.
Ethel can be two different dogs.
She is friendly and confident around people when out of the house whether she knows them or not. She enjoys visits to a cafe and days at daycare.
At home the young Cockerpoo is a different dog.
I love happy endings so I have brought this story of three years ago to the front.
People often don’t see things from their dog’s point of view until it’s pointed out. There seems no alternative but to keep walking towards the thing the dog is scared of, perhaps crossing the road. They buy equipment that enables them to physically manage their scared and pulling or lunging dog.
Although they may do their best to avoid people, turning right around and going somewhere else or even going back home isn’t an option. Walkers like their walks to go from A to B.
Sometimes the people, seeing he’s a Labrador, put their hand out to him. He doesn’t like that and he’s snapped a few times.
Robbie has a new harness that says ‘Nervous’. I’m not sure this is direct enough for the person who ‘loves dogs’ and may try to comfort him.
The Yellow Dog Company makes dayglo dog coats that say ‘I Need Space’. Plain florescent yellow coats are easy to obtain. We could make our own with a marker pen to say ‘Please don’t touch me’, making it quite clear to people.
It is very likely that Robbie had inadequate socialisation with new and different people as a young puppy. Possibly some of his problem is genetic. He had one terrifying experience involving a man when he was a young dog from which time things got a lot worse. He’s now five years old and is particularly scared of men which isn’t uncommon.
I had a soft dog toy – a squeaky duck in the top of my bag I knew a Labrador would like – and held it out to him.
Robbie took it and he became a different dog!
He paraded the duck, wagging his tail, showing me and the couple his prize. He squeaked it. “What have you got, Robbie?” I said to him. All was well.
The people said this was a very different first encounter than usual with their dog that barks at people who enter the house.
It seems that Robbie, influenced by fear, only barks at people when he can actually see a person. Hearing alone doesn’t seem to worry him.
At home they will work on getting him to look into their eyes the instant they gently say his name. Then, when they are out and he sees someone, they will have the power to get him to look away from the person and to them instead. That will be the first step.
They will make the whole walking experience less stressful. They will teach him to walk comfortably on a loose lead – we practised this in the house – and get rid of the head halter.
He will start to enjoy a lead walk rather than it being the frustration and discomfort of constantly fighting against the restraint. It’s unsurprising that a scared dog, already feeling this tension and stress, barks at people.
It will allow him to let him settle. They can work on their loose leash technique and learn how to change the emotions inside him that make him a dog that barks at people.
Later and after some work, when he sees anyone, if not too close “Robbie!” should immediately get his attention. They then move onto the next step. This is either feeding him, giving him a toy or throwing something; they will turn around, increase as much distance as they have to and have a party.
Robbie’s humans should keep totally relaxed when they see a person. Calm confidence needs to run down that lead. When Robbie tenses up – as soon as and not before – they then set the wheels in motion to associate the people he barks at – or used to bark at – with only great things.
They may eventually even point the person out to him before going straight into their happy routine, ‘Look- a person!’.
If everyone coming into his house greets him with a special toy that can be given to them in advance, he should begin to associate callers with good stuff too, just as he did me when I gave him my soft squeaky duck.
Robbie is a lovely dog with owners who really care. In time, if his need for distance is respected, he will be comfortable closer to people and may even ignore them. He’s not a particularly tactile dog and this must be respected. He will learn to trust the people holding the lead not to push him over his threshold and then he should no longer be a dog that barks at people.
Woody has changed.
If I had gone to see him about three months ago, the Cockerpoo, then about 8 months old, would have been very friendly and happy to see me. In fact, I would not have been needed at all.
Instead, when the man opened the door to let me in, Woody continued barking at me. He was obviously very scared – and brave.
Beside him was their adorable new 8-week-old puppy Fred who wasn’t fazed at all.
Puppy Fred is how Woody used to be. They come from the same breeder with the same father. Woody was a carefree, happy puppy. He loved everyone.
It’s not surprising that two-year-old Moose suffers from lack of confidence around people. Considering his background as a puppy born on the streets of Romania, he’s doing great. They didn’t have him until he was sixteen weeks old.
No socialisation will have taken place during the crucial early weeks and what encounters he did have with people were very likely scary ones and now hard-wired into his brain.
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.
They asked one of the older children if they were sorry to see her go. The child said, ‘Not really’. Continue reading…
Stunning seven month old Chow Chow Chai is fearful of people. Sometimes the best laid plans simply go wrong.
They simply can’t trace what could have changed her so dramatically. They can however pinpoint that it was something during this four-week period. She would have been in her fifth or sixth month.
Their superb vet likes her to come in every month, no charge. All they do is put her on the table and keep her used to being handled, examined and weighed. They give her treats. She was due for her monthly visit last week.
Five weeks ago however, the last time they had taken her, they got her to the door and she didn’t want to enter. Once in, she was frantic, scared, leaping onto them, terrified of the other people in there. A different dog from the previous time.
All I can think of is that something happened that was huge to her but that her humans hadn’t noticed; that it had coincided with a fear period.
It makes me think back to when I was a child of about seven years old. I was in a group of people along with my mother, and something happened. It traumatised me to the extent that I shut it out until counselling unearthed it years later. I could remember what we were doing before, but I had a blank period of time. I since asked my mother what it could have been and she had no idea.
What I found out seems very trivial now and I understand why my mother hadn’t even noticed. It had affected all my childhood.
I think it must be the same with young dogs when something happens at just the wrong time. The dog may, or may not, remember just what happened. To us it could seem so meaningless that we hadn’t even noticed. To the dog it’s life-changing.
In addition, as she matured some of the reported breed characteristics may have begun to surface: ‘…..can be aloof …….and downright suspicious of strangers. But for the right person, he’s a fiercely loyal companion’.
Chai is extremely attached to the man. (Interestingly, though initially she barked at me, when he left the room she stopped. Protective, maybe).
Who could be behind the door?
My questions unearthed that Chai had become particularly scared of entering into places. She is now so fearful of people that I believe it’s because she can’t see who might be the other side of the door.
A few days ago she had refused to go into the pet shop where she had been before. They didn’t insist, brought her home and called me.
I could see and hear how scared of me she was as I opened the gate into their high-fenced garden. I shut it again and waited for someone to come and help her then let me in.
Now they will do everything they can to help their beautiful fluffy dog become less fearful of people. People should be good news and not scary.
They will help her to associate people with only good things.
Recently, in order to control her, they have begun using a slip lead which tightens up if she pulls. Sometimes she is so desperate to avoid an approaching person she may try to run into the traffic.
She will feel more fearful of people when trapped on a tight lead. To make matters worse, just when she should be associating people with good things, the lead tightens. She will feel discomfort, pain even.
They will now get a harness and longer leash. With the lead fastened both on the back and the chest, they will have all the control they need without causing any discomfort.
They will stand at the entrance to their drive and ‘people-watch’. Her lead will be long and loose so at any time she feels fearful, she can retreat up the drive.
She first will be taught that looking at a person from a comfortable distance (to her) will bring her food.
They will then build this technique into walks, beginning early in the morning when there are few people about. They won’t walk her in busy places or at busy times until she is ready. It is only a short way to go to fields where they let her off lead.
They will work on taking her through doorways into buildings, starting with their helpful vets. They will go together. The man, to whom she’s most bonded, can go in first and sit down. He will check the coast is clear of people for now.
Letting a little time elapse so Chai both feels she has choice and is also missing the man, the lady will then take her in. With the man inside already it’s pretty certain Chai will willingly walk in. Then they can then come out and do it the other way around – lady in first.
This technique can be worked on many times and in different places.
They will lock the garden gate so people can’t simply walk in – and put a bell on it. Chai will no longer be allowed to feel vulnerable in the garden with someone able to walk straight into what should be her safe place.
It is quite heartbreaking when a puppy, despite such dedicated socialising and habituating to life, suddenly becomes unaccountably fearful of people or other dogs.
The little dog’s main fears and consequent barking is either directly, or indirectly, associated with his fear of people.
Bentley is an adorable and much-loved Coton de Tulear. In researching the breed, the first site I looked at said that they hate being on their own and that they like the sound of their own voices.
The first, distress at being alone, certainly applies but I don’t think Bentley barks and cries because he likes the sound of his own voice.
…and things associated with people.
This is whether someone just comes to the door, if someone comes into the house or when they see a person out on a walk. It’s the same with noises that people make, like slamming car doors and voices outside. (This dog that usually barks takes absolutely no notice at all of fireworks!).
His fear of people colours any trips to the vet or the groomer.
Changing his fear of people gets to the root of the barking problem and is the challenge. People should now be associated with things that Bentley likes and whenever possible on walks at a distance where he feels they are no threat to him. This threshold distance is important.
Here is a very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in on the subject (referring to encountering other dogs, but it’s the same principal). https://youtu.be/7HNv-vsnn6E
Most unusually, when I came to the house he barely barked at all, although he was still wary of me. This is because of how we set it up. They will now use the same technique with other callers.
How they actually respond to the barking will also help his fear of people and the sounds he can hear.
This can only be guesswork, but he invariably toilets soon after he is left. He’s very attached to the lady and follows her everywhere. It’s most likely he feels safest when with her.
They will be getting a camera so they can watch what happens when he’s left. This will tell us more.
Separation problems are slow to work on, particularly if it can’t be done systematically due to people having to go out to work. However, the more Bentley associates their leaving with good things and their returning as no big deal, the better.
He currently has run of the house when left. I suggest keeping him away from the front door area. This is where scary people may come and go and where people have pushed items through a hole in the door.
The higher are Bentley’s general stress levels, the less he will be able to cope with his fear of people and being left. Lowering arousal/stress is key. This may sound a bit boring at times but over-exciting activities can be replaced with those that help him to be calmer and more confident.
Two years ago when the couple were living in India they adopted a street dog – or she adopted them.
After a few days, one at a time, she carried five puppies to them.
Later they returned to England, bringing Ella with them. Her puppies stayed behind.
The two shyest pups still had no home by eighteen months of age, so six months ago the couple shipped them over here to join Ella. They had named them Whitey and Red simply to identify them, and these names have now stuck.
They have already done exceptionally well in integrating these three street dogs from India into life over here.
Having only mum Ella to start with, they transformed her into a dog who is chilled and secure. Although seldom on lead, she always stays close. They used to take her everywhere with them.
When the two pups arrived things necessarily changed.
Red is soft, friendly and cuddly with people. Whitey is more of a problem. She is suspicious, more scared and very independent. Unlike Red and Ella, Whitey doesn’t seek out human contact.
They live in an open country area with no fences. The couple just open the door for the dogs to go and toilet. They let them out one dog at a time or they will run off together, go hunting and exploring, maybe coming back hours later. Whitey in particular.
Street dogs from India have, after all, been used to coming and going much as they please.
One might think mum Ella would welcome the company of her two female pups, but it doesn’t look like that to me. She has the burden of keeping the other two ‘in line’. She’s ready to step in as soon as play gets vigorous or if one becomes aroused by something. Troubled, she faces them, teeth bared and growling.
When all three together go out on a walk, the non-reactive Ella may now join in the distance-increasing aggression when they see another dog.
Where letting them all run freely off lead is something they have been used to, it’s not appropriate now. They could run into trouble or danger.
Whitey has already nipped a couple of people. She goes round behind them like a herding dog. Someone merely finding a dog a threat can end in the police taking action according to the new dog law. The dog could be condemned to being on lead always when out and muzzled. It’s not worth the risk.
Recently one of the pups went for a distant dog – joined by the other two, which resulted in them all being kicked by the male owner of the other dog.
They will for now be walked individually, or Ella alone with the two pups together. Going back to her old happy walks, a dog and her humans and without the other two to worry about, will be nice for Ella.
They will work on Red and Whitey’s reactivity to dogs when out by using distance and counter-conditioning.
Recall starts at home. If the pups don’t come to them promptly when just outside the house, then they won’t do so when they see another dog or a rabbit when out on walks.
This means preventing all further rehearsal of running off. Street dogs from India will have no boundaries, but just as the couple brought Ella round with hard work, they now need to work on the two younger girls.
They will make use of a long line with the two pups, both when letting them out to toilet and on walks. One pup can be on lead with the other on the long thirty foot line. They can do lots of recall work and keep swapping dogs from lead to line.
As ‘Come’ (or ‘Biscuits’!) has a history of being ignored until the dog is ready, they will train them to come to the whistle, starting at home.
Underpinning everything is getting the dogs’ attention. A problem with having several dogs is that they can relate to one another rather than to us.
The more the dogs are ‘with their humans’ on walks rather than with their focus upon one another, the better control their owners should eventually have. The more relevant they make themselves the better.
This means working on each pup as an individual – as they did originally with Ella.
They will keep things as calm as possible at exciting trigger times such as before walks and reunitings. These are the times when arousal might erupt, with one over-aroused pup redirecting onto the other and poor Ella feeling she has to step in.
As I walk in the door, the puppy barks as he backs away. He barks Go Away to me.
It is suggested that taking a puppy from his mother and siblings a bit too early may, in special circumstances, be actually be better than leaving him a bit later than usual. This depends upon what the breeder is doing.
Rough and tumble with siblings can teach puppy to be gentle, give and take and so on. If, until he is ten weeks old, puppy sees nobody apart from the other dogs and a couple of family members in the breeder’s house in the middle of nowhere, the outcome can be a lot more serious than a nippy puppy.
A puppy needs early habituating to the outside world and to a variety of people including children. For psychological reasons, the earlier this begins the better despite vaccinations not complete.
Four month old Bear is a typical case in point. They picked him up to join their other Miniature Poodle, Teddy, at ten weeks of age. He is very gentle, not a nippy puppy at all and perfect with Teddy.
However, Bear is very scared of people. He even initially barks Go Away to familiar people coming into his home.
Normally they stop him with a mix of saying Shhh and fuss. I asked them to leave him which meant he carried on a lot longer.
Now the work started. He was going to learn not to be scared of me.
The lady had my clicker and some grated cheese. Each time Bear looked at me he got a click then, a moment later, cheese.
Each time he barked, as soon as there was a break she clicked. Then cheese. Soon she was clicking and I was delivering the cheese.
It was complicated a little by the need to give Teddy cheese as well, but that is the rule of clicker. The click is always followed by food. We may want to give Teddy some clicker fun at a later date. The room was small and there was nowhere else for him to go, and Teddy loves his food so can’t be left out.
Teddy and Bear give their retired owners great happiness and loads of laughter. The little dogs have wonderful lives with them. Understandably, they want Bear’s life to be as good as it possibly can be which means his becoming less fearful of people, including children.
This can only be done by associating them with ‘good stuff’. It needs lots of patient work from his humans who will do their best not to push him ‘over threshold’ by getting so close that he then barks Go Away.
They have actually made good headway on walks and he can now accept several people he knows without barking. The big difference when out in the park is that he’s off lead and free to escape.
They can use the people he meets on walks to build up his confidence by pairing his looking at them with food. The lady may find the clicker one thing too many to handle – as well as two dogs, leads, poo bags and treats – so she will say ‘Yes’ instead.
They will find a bench at a comfortable distance from the kids’ play area and get out the clicker and cheese. We are using tiny bits of cheese for working on people because he likes it better than anything else. The only way he can now get cheese is when he sees a person.
The more Bear barks Go Away at people, particularly as they nearly always do go away, the more he’s going to do it.
When people go past the house, he barks Go Away – and they go. Success. When the mail comes through the door, he barks Go Away – and the postman goes. Success.
The view out of the window will be blocked and an outside letterbox installed. The constant daily rehearsal of succesfully barking at people to go away must be reduced.
When I got up to go, I wanted to get out without any of the usual barking from Bear. I did it in small stages starting by gathering my things. The lady clicked and fed as he watched me. As I slowly stood up she did it again. As I slowly walked to the door she continued.
I let myself out.
Crumpet is a Cockerpoo. Crumpet (I just love her name) is three years old.
She scares easily – apart from the very times when most other dogs would be frightened. On trains, on the underground and on the busy streets of London she is absolutely fine!
At home where it’s quieter she is spooked by anything different or unusual and is very wary when a person appears. She may rush at them, barking.
She is like this also when someone calls at their house.
The lady takes her to work and Crumpet reacts in the same way when someone enters her office. Though tethered, she rushes at them, barking.
The very strange thing is that in a crowded train she is friendly! She will even go to people for a fuss and sit on the floor beside them. The more people there are, the less wary Crumpet seems to be.
It does seem like there is a territorial element to it and she feels more threatened by people near to or in her home – the same at the office. Commonly dogs are worse when a person is standing. Understandably this is particularly the case when she is in an enclosed space or on lead (train carriage and London streets excepted).
It’s an odd thing, but often the fewer people there are the more threatened the dog feels, particularly if they appear suddenly or move quickly. Perhaps this is the same with ourselves? We can feel invisible in a crowd.
Because of how I set things up when I arrived, she was fine with me from the start. However, it was a bit different when I got up to go. I saw for myself just how easily Crumpet scares. She was sitting on the lady’s lap and I was now standing up. As I talked to the lady, standing quite close to her, I watched Crumpet. My nearness and the fact I was standing started her lip-licking and yawning. Then there was a little growl. All were clear signs that she was feeling very uncomfortable.
Had I not taken heed and backed away, no doubt next she would have rushed barking at me too.
Is she being protective? It’s possible. Whatever the reasons behind it, Crumpet should be helped in situations like this. This means learning to read her subtle signals, before it gets to the rushing and barking stage if possible. They should save her from any unwanted attention or increase distance.
She looks so gorgeous that she is a magnet for ‘dog-lovers’!
Crumpet is variable. There are occasions when she is less wary and reactive than others. This can only be to do with her own mental state at the time. The calmer, less-stressed and more confident she is in all aspects of her life, the better she will be able to cope with the things that scare her.
The nearer to home she is the more wary of people in particular she seems to be.
We will be concentrating on lowering her stress and excitement levels whilst also counter-conditioning her to things she’s wary of – people in particular – by building up positive associations and doing everything to keep her feeling safe. If she no longer sees people as a threat, then she has no need to feel protective – if protectiveness is part of it.
Crumpet is in such a frenzy of excitement before she even leaves the house, barking her way down the road. In this state one wouldn’t then expect a calm and considered reaction to anyone she might meet.
The lady will work on getting through the door with a quiet dog! I have invented a sequence, like kind of game, involving waiting for quiet by a door, opening it, walking through with a quiet dog and returning again – over and over. Starting with inside doors, then the back door and finally the front door.
Next she will progress to walking Bracken quietly away from the door a small way before turning back – until they get to the end of the road.
I’m still puzzled by why Crumpet is so comfortable in the train! Possibly it’s because there is no territorial element.
The little dog who spooks at a rubbish bag appearing on the footpath is unfazed by the hiss of closing underground train doors. The dog who rushes at a person walking towards them in their own road is untroubled by people packed into a carriage.
We need to bottle this and take it home and to the office!