Dog Bites. Why? Touchy. Guards Resources

They worry that it’s their fault that their dog bites them.

I’m sure it’s largely genetic. Some dogs resort to biting a lot more readily than others. Some dogs will put up with anything and not bite.

The family has had eighteen-month-old Rough Haired Dachshund Toto since she was eight weeks old. Like many people, they have had dogs before, treated them in the same loving way, but never had this problem. I myself can look back at past dogs of mine and wish I had known then what I know now.

Toto stole a shoe

She showed no signs of aggression as a young puppy. If they had predicted how dog bites were going to develop, they would have reacted differently from the very first time it happened, when at about a year old Toto stole a shoe – had they realised there was another way.

Like so many people would do, they chased and cornered her in order to retrieve the item. She will have felt both aroused and scared. She growled and then snapped. The behaviour then escalated quickly. Continue reading…

Scared of the Car. Scared of Traffic. Systematic Desensitisation

Barney is very scared of the car. He won’t get in.

scared of the carHe is very frightened of traffic also.

This is becoming a problem. Not only does it limit where they can walk him but they will need to take him to the vet soon.

Four months ago the two-year-old Staffie came to live with the couple. All they know about his past is that he was in rescue kennels for the previous eighteen months of his young life. Continue reading…

Early Exposure. Appropriate Acclimatisation to Life. Flooding

Another dog, a puppy this time, having lacked the right kind of early socialising and exposure in the earlier weeks, before she was twelve weeks of age.

Mia is now nearly four months old, a beautiful Catalan Shepherd puppy.

Little or no exposure to the real world

little or no exposure to the real worldPoor little Mia is extremely fearful of people. She is generally jumpy and is terrified of traffic. Continue reading…

Screams With Fear in Crowds. Scared of Traffic.

Archie gets so scared in crowds that he screams.

People tend to think that giving a dog lots of exposure will ‘get him used to it’. Fortunately, Archie’s owners realised when they first took him into a town a few days ago that they needed to do something to help him before doing so again. They do all they know to do everything right for their dear puppy.

Archie is a beautiful little Miniature Schnauzer, not yet ten months old. They live in quite a quiet area and he’s unaccustomed to crowds.

Early exposure to the real world.

Screams when scaredHe was the most timid puppy of the litter and his lack of confidence will probably be genetic. With hindsight, he would have benefited from being much more actively habituated to people, vacuum cleaners, new things, traffic and the bustle of real life in general – but in a structured way – from a few weeks old.

Archie is a delightful little dog. When I arrived I could see how torn he was between fearfulness and wanting to be friendly. Fortunately the ‘friendly’ soon won.

He’s sweetly affectionate without being pushy.

A lot of things scare him. Where other dogs might bark, poor little Archie screams and whimpers.

He daily has to run a ten-minute gauntlet beside a busy road in order to get to the field where they let him off lead. Daily exposure isn’t making him ‘get used to it’ and in fact his screams are getting worse. He will try also to chase the traffic. He is trapped, held tightly by lead and collar, so attack can be the only form of defence left to him.

Slow, systematic work

They will work at getting Archie as confident, least stressed and stable as possible in all areas of his home life. This will give the best basis for working on his fears of people, dogs and traffic when out.

They will teach him strategies that will enable them to get his attention. Screams and barks directed at something or someone are less likely to happen when the dog is looking elsewhere.

The work needs to be done in a very systematic way, starting at the beginning.

Bit by bit they will be habituating, desensitising and counter-conditioning him to those things that scare him.

Walks themselves should be a bit different. For now they will take him to the field only by car while they work on his fearful reactivity to people, dogs and traffic, gradually and systematically.

Lead walks will be near home where it’s quiet and the distance from these threats can be controlled. The more short planned sessions they can fit in, the faster they will make progress.

Panic pulling and screams

They will carefully introduce Archie to comfortable equipment (even introducing the harness will need to be done very gradually). We will look at loose lead walking rather than panic pulling.

No longer will Archie have to endure this terrifying path past people, dogs and vehicles, a gauntlet to run that he has to endure daily in order to get to the field.

Traffic watching

A successful approach to fear of traffic is to find a quiet side road and watch traffic passing by the end from a comfortable distance. Each vehicle will trigger food for Archie. The lead should be long and loose to allow him to feel he can escape if scared – by increasing distance. Bit by bit they will inch nearer to the traffic. On times I have done this, the dog is eventually walking happily along beside the traffic. How soon depends upon the frequency of the short sessions and how fearful the dog is to start with.

To Archie, the world out of his house is generally unsafe. When his panic and stress get simply too much, he screams. Fortunately he is fine with dogs he knows in environments he considers ‘safe’.

With time and patience he should ultimately be able to better cope with the world of people and traffic.

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 Archie. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear 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).

“I’m a Terrified Dog. GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

In the reality TV game show ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ a young woman is locked in a tank of snakes. She is terrified of snakes. A man who’s not a good swimmer is shut in a dark tunnel leading to a deep tank with scary water critters. Others are buried in a dark tomb with rats and insects dropping all around them.

These people do this through choice.

Terrified of the outside worldThey know exactly when the terror will start and when it will end. They have a get-out card. If the terrified contestants shout “I’M A CELEBRITY – GET ME OUT OF HERE!” they will be rescued immediately. There is a team of medics on hand, just in case.

They know that however much they hate the ordeal, they are safe.

Imagine how it must be for Marco.

After some weeks in kennels he has a wonderful new home. But, as soon as he leaves the sanctuary of the house and garden he is terrified.

The gate opens and a world of horror is beyond.

Vehicles – small, large, fast, slow, noisy, smelly – are passing. There are bikes and runners. He lunges and barks, attack probably being the best form of defense.

In the open he is on high alert all the time. He barks at wind in the trees, at birds flying overhead and at distant lights.

Being in the boot of their car sends him into a meltdown. A covered crate makes no difference.

Unlike the ‘I’m a Celebrity’ contestants, Marco has no way of knowing that he is, in reality, safe.

It’s an educated guess that for the first three and a half years of his life the Staffie mix will have had little exposure, if any, to the world outside a house and garden. Any journey in a car would probably have taken him through this outside hell and ended somewhere like the vet. No wonder he’s terrified.

All good dog owners give their dogs long walks, right?

Like the conscientious dog owners they are, wanting to do the very best for their gorgeous but troubled dog, they had been taking him out for walks from the start.

Choice.

Unfortunately, unlike the ‘I’m a Celebrity’ contestants, Marco doesn’t have choice. He can’t know that in reality he is safe. He can’t know that the ordeal will only last a set length of time and then it will end. The dog has no ‘I’M A TERRIFIED DOG – GET ME OUT OF HERE!” option.

See this: What fear does to the body – dog or human.

Marco is gorgeous. Indoors he is friendly without being pushy, he’s gentle and affectionate. It’s probable that after just six weeks with them he’s not yet shown all his true self. His body language is what I would call ‘careful’. He shows signs of anxiety at unusual times like when he’s called through a door he lowers his head.

With a dog so obviously fearful of the outside world (the rescue apparently didn’t see this side of him) it’s common to suggest to new owners that the dog isn’t taken out at all for three weeks.

No walks!

People find this hard.

Let a dog get used to his new environment – house, garden and new people first. Just imagine the enormity of being trapped in a totally new world over which you have no control.

It’s all to do with trust in his humans, with Marco feeling safe. No animal, or human, willingly goes somewhere he believes is life-threatening. Keeping fit and exercise is an irrelevance compared to feeling safe.

If our guesses as to his previous home are correct, he’s not had much exercise in terms of long walks in all his life so far, so neither he nor his body will miss it.

They will now work slowly, always keeping in mind Marco’s comfort threshold. He’s fine in the house. He’s fine in the garden. When the gate opens he panics.

He is terrified.

He transforms into a lunging, pulling and barking beast.

They will now walk him around house and garden only, teaching him to walk on a loose lead. The teenage son was soon walking him about at his side with no lead at all.

They need to get him okay with the traffic on the busy road outside. He has to negotiate the footpath before going anywhere else.

With Marco on a long, loose lead they will open the gate and find his threshold distance – where he is aware of the passing traffic but can cope; it could be right down the garden. As the vehicles pass and Marco is watching them, they will rain chicken on him. If he won’t eat, he is still over threshold. He will have the freedom and choice to retreat further.

With lots of short sessions, with vehicles at a safe distances heralding food, over time his threshold will get closer to the road.

The car is another thing to work on but not until he’s okay walking towards it and around it. Little by little.

It is likely that with slow and patient work Marco will suddenly surge ahead and some of the other things that terrify him in the large and unfamiliar world won’t seem so scary.

He will have absolute trust in his humans if they allow him to choose what he is ready for.

He now can shout “Get Me Out of Here!”

He can choose!

If with his body language he shows uneasiness they will make things alright. If with barking he shouts “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”, they will do just that. Beat a retreat.

 

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 Marco and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Listening to ‘other people’, 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, particularly where fear is concerned. 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)

Feels Unsafe. She Runs for Home.

Eight weeks ago Holly came from a pound in Cyprus to live with my lady client. Holly is a Beagle mix, three years of age.

Holly feels unsafe with sudden soundsAlthough initially spending a lot of time in her bolthole under the kitchen table, she didn’t start off particularly spooked by sudden sounds. This is may have been because, trying to adjust, she was simply shut down.

Whilst becoming more confident at home, over the time she has become increasingly spooked outside.

With hindsight things should have been taken a lot more gradually, one new thing at a time, but she seemed to be coping. I believe things have been stacking up to a level where she’s lost her resilience.

It was, and still is, a world of new and unpredictable things. There will have been the cage for the aircraft, the flight, the car journey and then arriving to a house. Had she ever lived in a house before?

She was then taken out for walks. On lead, she was very scared of traffic, particularly lorries. She is scared of all wheels.

To start with the lady would let her off lead in the nearby park and she ran free. She was in her element.

Holly was waiting at the front door.

Then, after just a few weeks, she had run out of sight. The lady, in a panic, called and called, but Holly didn’t reappear.

With much more sensitive ears, Holly must have heard something the lady didn’t hear. It sent her running in panic.

She had run across roads and was waiting at the front door. There were scratch marks on it as she tried desperately to get in to where it felt safe.

It soon became apparent that she was becoming increasingly scared of sudden sounds.

As Holly adapts to her lovely new, but very different, life, increasingly she feels unsafe. Having run for home a second time she now has to remain on lead. A dog that feels unsafe will feel even more so trapped on a lead. It’s most likely, whatever her history, that she will have spent some of her life either as a stray or on the streets. No leash.

Now she is resisting going out on walks. The lady had been carrying her to the car and trying to find new places, not associated with previous fears. She’s now wriggling to escape from her arms.

When I arrived she quietly took herself off out of sight, to one of her sanctuary places.

She did appear eventually and was actually very friendly. ‘Holly-Come’ brought her running for food. People aren’t the problem. ‘Sudden’ things are, noises in particular – and they don’t have to be loud or nearby to spook her.

Poor Holly feels unsafe most of the time when out of the house.

We sat out in the garden, some distance away from the open back door. Holly joined us.

All was well for a minute or two and then there was a noise from a neighbour. It sounded a bit like a metal ladder being moved. It wasn’t loud. Holly turned and slinked across the garden and indoors.

She came back out. This is a brave little dog.

She was aware of other, softer noises and I immediately rained food around her. Fortunately she is very food motivated. If I heard something that she didn’t actually react to, it still produced food.

A little later I tried tapping my hand softly on the metal table, ready to throw food. It wasn’t softly enough and sent her running indoors again. It demonstrated clearly to both of us how, to work on this, we have to begin at an extremely low level.

“Desensitization consists of exposing a subject to the thing they fear in graded exposures, starting with a form that is dilute and non threatening, and working up to full exposure to the scary thing. Counter-conditioning consists of changing an emotional response (usually from fear to neutrality or to a positive response), by pairing the trigger of the undesirable response with something that evokes a desirable emotional response. Combining these two methods creates a non-threatening but very effective way to alter phobic fear responses.” Eileen Anderson

There will be two kinds of sudden sounds, those that the lady generates herself and those uncontrolled sudden sounds that occur in the environment.

Sudden sounds generated by the lady. 

She can control both intensity and the timing. I suggested she sits near the open kitchen door if in the garden. Holly’s feeling safe depends upon an escape route.

She can tap on the table. The tap has to be even softer than mine was. Simultaneously with the tap, she can gently say ‘Yes’ and drop some food. Saying ‘Yes’ with every sound is helpful because it’s not always possible to be sufficiently immediate with food alone.

The lady can gradually increase the heaviness of the tap to gentle bang. She will watch very carefully not to send Holly over her threshold. If she does so, then they go back to a level Holly that happily tolerates before ending the session.

Over the days and weeks this can be expanded to someone else making sounds in another room. They can download or buy sound effects and use it in the same manner – in another room and very softly indeed initially.

Sudden sounds that she has no control over.

Like the neighbour moving the ladder, sounds that ‘just happen’ are a lot more tricky.

If poor Holly feels unsafe in her own garden when there is a fairly gentle noise over the fence and an open kitchen door, imagine how she must feel when out on a walk and something like a bird scarer goes off or a motorbike roars past.

As soon as there is any sudden sound, however soft and even if Holly seems fine, the lady should say ‘Yes’ and drop food. It will undoubtedly take her some practice to perfect her timing and to be consistent.

She will hold back from walks for a while. A walk is useless when the dog feels unsafe. It does more harm than good.

Because of the ladder incident Holly now may be a bit scared of the garden.

Sprinkles! Unseen by Holly, the lady will sprinkle food all over the grass and then let her out, leaving the door open so she always has an escape route. The environment, not the lady, will be delivering the food.

Holly feels unsafe on walks.

It will be like starting all over again, gradually building up Holly’s confidence. Several very short sessions a day will work best, not going beyond the garden. If she is spooked, the lady should stop straight away.

She will begin by walking Holly around the house – being encouraging – and using rewards.

Next they will go around the garden. The door should be open and if there is any sign of fear the lady should say ‘Yes’, drop food and drop the lead.

When it’s going well, she can open the back gate. They can step through it and come back in again, many times, making a bit of a game of it…and so it goes on.

All the time the lady will keep counter-conditioning bangs and anything sudden with chicken raining around Holly!

This is just the start of the plan. How long will it take before she can walk to the park? When getting a rescue dog from a completely different life, people don’t dream of challenges like this. Realistic expectations are vital. It could take a long time to build up Honey’s confidence. There is no quick fix.

Three months later: ‘Honey has regained her love of the garden and she reached right round the side of the front garden and towards the centre of the front of the house yesterday.’ It’s great how she has turned a corner. I have found time and again that if people can be patient enough and follow our plan exactly, the dog gains confidence more quickly in the end.
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 approaches I have worked out for Holly. 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, particularly where fear is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Too Much Excitement

Young English BulldogJess is a very friendly one-year-old English Bulldog. Although bold and friendly with people and other dogs, she is unfortunately becoming increasingly fearful of certain things, with new fears being added to the list as time goes by. Just the other day on her walk she bolted when she saw a plane flying above with a vapour trail. She hates traffic. Now she’s become scared of the microwave beeping.

Their adult daughter was leaving as I arrived and had just been engaged in some rough and tumble play with the dog.  I can’t prove this, but I would be willing to bet that Jess’ jumping up at me would have been lot less persistent and frantic had this kind of play not just taken place.

Even happy excitement is stress of a kind and, overdone, fills the brain with an increase in adrenaline and cortisol. Fear is also a kind of stress and does just the same thing to the system. Because stress builds up, not only continuing to flood the brain even for a short while after the arousal has happened, these chemicals can take days to dissipate – particularly when they are constantly being topped up.

Although on the face of it seemingly something  quite different, one can see how too much rough or exciting play can directly affect a dogs fearfulness and nervousness. We know with ourselves that if we are in a highly emotional state we are for more vulnerable to tears, fears, hysterics and so on!

When Jess did eventually calm down she was peaceful. In many ways, if she were allowed she could be quite a placid dog. She is very accepting of certain things that might upset more highly-strung dogs.

This brings me to the next difficulty for this family. There are three young grandsons who come round every day after school. The youngest in particular loves to wind Jess up and he has even been injured – by mistake. She jumps on him and they roll around the floor. They treat Jess like an animated fluffy toy. From the moment they arrive there is a daily injection of high excitement.

The retired couple themselves strike just the right balance with the kind of attention they give Jess. With some new rules in place for visiting family she should be in a better state of mind where the work with desensitising to traffic and other scary things is concerned.

I suggested they made a chart for the little boy so he can earn stars or whatever kids nowadays like to earn – for keeping Jess calm. The children need positive reinforcement just as much as the dog.

It will be most logical to start by getting Jess okay with things in the house like the microwave and the noise made by builders across the road.

Where previously the lady felt that making Jess walk by a busy road would ‘get her used to the traffic’, it’s proved not to work, with her growing increasingly fearful. They will now be finding places where Jess is at a comfortable distance from vehicles and begin the strategies which will get her to feel differently about traffic. It may mean changing routines for now to something less convenient and it may not be quick – but it’s what works!

8 months later – review on Yell:  We nervously contacted Theo, The Dog Lady to help us with our English Bulldog puppy.Jess would drag us along the road, completely out of control. She didn’t enjoy her walkies and was terrified of just about everything. Traffic was a nightmare for her, everyday she adopted a new fear. One day while we were out walking, she became terrified of vapor trails from planes in the sky. She completely freaked out! Theo totally ignored Jess until she had calmed down, and no longer jumping up. The advise she gave us was invaluable, from changing her harness and lead which would give us more control, to suggesting a different food and how to use food from her daily allowance to use as treats. Every time we heard a car when on a walk Theo suggested throwing food on the ground so that she associated cars as something good. It has taken a while but Jess is a delight. She walks beautifully and although she is still nervous around traffic she no longer drags me along.Thank you so much Theo!
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 Jess. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

Dog Feels Unsafe out on Walks

British Bulldog sitting like a humanWhen I arrived British Bulldog Bentley was very interested in sniffing me as most dogs are – they probably know all about my own four dogs within a few seconds!

He didn’t seem nervous of me initially and was happy with me tickling his chest as he sat on his bed beside me, but when later I asked him to come to me he withdrew and watched me from a distance (as you can see from the photos). He is wildly excited when people he knows come to the house, but is wary of anyone new.

Because he was so quiet I never saw the real dog – who has a full repertoire of gimmicks to get attention! You’d think butter wouldn’t melt to look at him! He will scratch persistently at the door to have it opened but may not then go through, he has a sequence starting with grunts that lead up to barking at the man to get the attention he wants, he won’t let the lady talk on her mobile and he steals then runs off with things – all for the chase, then won’t give them up.

He is quite comical in a way – look at how he sits!

Bentley is two years old, and until the end of last year had the ‘back up’ of an older dog who has now died. His British Bulldogproblems, mostly to do with feeling unsafe, particularly outside the house, seem to have become a lot worse since then.

He is ambiguous about walks. When the harness is produced he runs away to his bed, but once it’s on he seems happy to go out. The further they walk away from the quiet area in which they live however the more anxious he gets, pulling and panting, and getting very noisy when he sees another dog.

They usually route leads beside busy roads or to a local park, which is very popular and noisy with children, people and dogs. Only when they get back near to home again does Bentley calm down a bit.

Both humans and dog arrive back home more stressed than when they started out – certainly not what walks are designed for.

Added to all that, even in the park, fields or woods he is still held on the shortish lead which must be very frustrating for him. They dare not let him off as sometimes it is hard to read his intentions towards other dogs. Because he has a tiny, twisty tail that doesn’t give out the usual signals and a face that whilst looking amazingly cute to us, maybe be difficult for another dog to decipher, he himself may be unwittingly inviting negative responses.

Just as with the two black dogs I went to last week, we will separate the currently stressful pavement walking from the countryside walking so that he can slowly be desensitised to traffic whilst also getting healthy stimulation and exercise. They can pop him in the car and take him to the fields.

So far as ‘normal’ walks are concerned, the bottom line is that he doesn’t feel safe at the moment, and that has to change.

Bit by bit, starting in the garden and then out in the road near their house where Bentley is still reasonably comfortable, they will work on his walking on a longish loose lead. The walk is about the journey, not the destination. Several short sessions on a loose lead with encouragement and food rewards will do much more good than one long session.

They will very gradually go a little further from home., a few yards at a time. As soon as he starts to be even slightly agitated, they should take a few steps back into his comfort zone and then ‘lace the environment’ – sprinkle food about on the ground. He needs to learn that the environment with other dogs, traffic and people at an acceptable (to him) distance is a good place. If he won’t eat, then they need to increase the distance further.

If they take this sufficiently slowly Bentley should gradually be able to get further from home before he starts to get agitated, until the time comes when then can walk instead of drive to the nearest off-road open area. It will take considerably longer to desensitise him and build up his confidence sufficiently to get back to their former route beside the busier roads.

It’s essential that in order to feel safe Bentley trusts the person who is holding the lead to look after him. This requires general relationship building which starts at home. He is a much-loved dog with people who just need pointing in the right direction.

NB. For the sake of the story this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. Also, the precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

 

 

Walking the Dogs is Not Fun

German Shepherd Rottie mix

Marley

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

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).

 

Puppy Parenting – Puppy Training

Petite Brabancon Griffin puppy

Jack

I had a real treat yesterday. I went to fourteen-week-old Petite Brabancon Griffon siblings, Jack and Coco.They were absolutely adorable. Apparently there are only about seventy-five of the breed in the country.

There were no problems to address but the couple had missed out on their choice of local puppy classes this time round and wanted to make sure they were going in the right direction meanwhile.

But what actually is puppy training? Is it ‘commands and tricks’ or is it about the puppy learning for himself what works and what doesn’t work? Parenting puppies is about more than just training tricks so we will be giving them a really stable home base from which to learn and these particular excellent classes will continue where I left off – being totally force-free and reward-based. Griffon, Petite Brabancon puppies

We looked at ways to make sure that the puppies didn’t become so attached to one another (one of the common problems when adopting siblings) that they would one day take no notice of their humans and could become vulnerable should they need to be separated. Short periods apart and some walking individually will be built into their days.

Another sibling problem is that one can become overshadowed by the other and never really shine in her own right (Coco could potentially be the one here), another reason for sometimes treating them as individuals rather than a ‘pair’.

Both dogs are scared of traffic so we discussed how they can be desensitised. They have the perfect spot for this where they can stand well back from a road and observe passing traffic from a distance the dogs are comfortable. Working on desensitising, they can gradually work their way nearer as and when the puppies are relaxed and ready.

I demonstrated teaching Jack to sit to the point where he wouldn’t stop sitting! First I lured him, then just waited and marked and rewarded the moment he sat, then added the cue, then he was responding to the cue – and all in no more than ten minutes. Now we had taught him to beg – ‘if I sit I get fed’ – so now he will only get the food when he’s asked to sit!

We did a little off lead walking beside us and then loose-lead walking around the room.

I can’t wait to go again in a couple of weeks!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Jack and Coco, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy 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 and training tailored to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).