Screaming and Barking, They Pull Down the Road

Maggie screaming on walks

Mollie and Maggie

Being pulled down the road by two little dogs, one screaming and one barking in sympathy, is no joke.

Mollie and her sibling sister Maggie are absolutely adorable little Miniature Schnauzers, six months of age.

They have very few of the usual puppy problems that I go to. They don’t nip, they ask to go outside to toilet and they sleep peacefully when left alone at home – which isn’t ever for very long.

Although there can be disadvantages in bringing up siblings, a big plus is that they always have a playmate. They have a great outlet for their energy.

Maggie and Mollie have their own funny little ways! At night, when going out for the last time, they now go out separately. Unsurprisingly,  if taken together they start to play and won’t come in!

The first dog to be left indoors cries and, though the other one comes in willingly, the second one out then won’t come back in! This is the same whichever order they go out in.

The couple can manage the ‘coming in’ while they work on good recall by using a Flexilead in the garden (the only good use for one of those).

Crying when parted is at the heart of what we will be dealing with. The couple will work on treating the two little girls as individuals so they can be happy to be apart for short periods of time.

Happy to be parted for short periods is key.

This is particularly necessary for walking them.

Little Maggie is screaming as soon as she’s out of the door, pulling madly as she goes. She’s barking and screaming at any dog or person she sees and Mollie, who is generally a lot more confident, then joins in the noise.

The lady and gentleman want enjoyable walks, not being pulled down the road by screaming, barking puppies! The pups are now six months old and things won’t improve unless done differently.

Walks for now should be with one dog at a time only. Treating them as individuals will also help to avoid any trouble between the two girls when they mature. Already Mollie is a bit controlling of Maggie and tends to redirect onto her when they are aroused by something like a person coming to the door. She may also object if Maggie is being fussed.

The couple are prepared to take this slowly, one tiny step at a time.

They will shut Mollie in the sitting room with a stuffed Kong for a few minutes, whilst working in the kitchen, bit by bit, at getting Maggie to love her harness (both dogs are wary of the harnesses being put on).

Then they will swap the dogs around, working on Mollie in the kitchen whilst Maggie has a Kong in the sitting room. The more times they can do this in a day the faster the dogs will get used to it. They will stick to working with the dogs in the same order so they know exactly what to expect and that they will get their turn.

Next the lead will be added to the harness. The kitchen dog will be walked around the kitchen on a loose lead using the technique demonstrated by me.bristowmandm2

Bit by bit they can work towards walking out of the back door and into the garden with a quiet puppy. The dog with the Kong alone in the sitting room should be more settled by now. No crying, whining or screaming.

If Maggie starts screaming in the garden they will bring her straight back in. While she is walking nicely, they will feed her.

When ready, the little dog will be taken in and out of the garden gate – Mollie will get to this stage well before Maggie I’m sure.

They can then stand still just outside the gate for a few minutes while each puppy can smell, hear and watch the outside world. Then come back in again. Any screaming will result in turning around straight away.

When this stage is achieved, the next step is to start walking further away from the house.

Will Maggie start screaming?

If she does, they need to take things back a step or two with her and take it even more gradually.

Getting to this stage where the dogs can be walked separately and quietly just outside the house, on loose leads one at a time, is a major milestone.

We will then work out what to do next in order to take things forward so that eventually both little dogs can enjoy a quiet walk down the road together on loose leads.

Fortunately they have a nice garden and get plenty of exercise. For outings, the couple may try popping them in the car, taking them somewhere open and letting them free on long lines. Any screaming and this will be abandoned.

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 Maggie and Mollie. 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)

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).

Terrified Outside Their Home

Two cavalier king charles spaniels

Ben and Evan

The two five-year-old Cavs had been left in a garden in London and not taken outside for a long time, if at all. They were picked up in an unkempt condition and with very long nails.

Amazingly, they are very friendly with all people and dogs so long as it’s in their own home and garden where they feel safe, but once a lead goes on them and they know they are going out of the gate, they become different dogs. Excitement doesn’t necessarily mean happiness, which is something dog owners don’t always realise. The two are walked down the road together, squealing and yapping, and to quote the lady, all hell breaks loose if they see another dog.

Their new humans, wanting to do all they can for the little dogs, have cast about to find ways to solve the problem. The first thing people often try is dog training and they have been going to classes but find that ‘training’ doesn’t help at all. At their wits’ end, they have tried anti-bark collars to make them quiet. Nothing works.

Nothing is working because they have not been addressing the cause, the root, of the problem. Terror. They are just trying to eradicate the symptom – the noise. Like many people, they simply hadn’t correctly interpreted from the dogs’ body language and stress signals just how scared they were feeling.

Although happy little dogs in the house, because they are so terrified outside the daily build-up of stress generated by walks is spilling over into other habits, things they do in order to relieve their stress such as licking and sucking themselves until they are raw.

One at a time we put a comfortable harness on each little dog (with the short leads on thin collars, when they do lunge at anything that scares them it will be hurting their little necks). We first took Lenny outside into the garden so I could show the lady how to walk him on a loose, longer lead giving him the feeling of more freedom. Being less ‘trapped’ should eventually allow him to feel less unsafe..

Before even leaving the garden Lenny was panting and agitated, frequently shaking himself and scratching as a displacement activity to help himself cope. He did calm down sufficiently to follow the lady around on the loose lead and for us to open the gate and walk him out into the garage area.

We got to the opening and then he saw a cat. He exploded. It sounded like he was being murdered. It was perfectly clear to me that even just past the garage we had pushed too far too fast, but now I had seen and heard for myself just what happened and we had established the ‘threshold’ at which we should have stopped – the area behind which the real work would now need to start.

Little Evan was even worse. As soon as the lead went on in the garden he was nervous wreck. He screamed. He bit at the lead. To try to stop these things they tug back at the lead and scold him but he’s so agitated he really can’t help himself. I showed them how to stand still and calm and to reinforce not screaming and not biting the lead. He quietened down a bit and walked around the garden a few times, but we never even got out of the gate.

Evan ended up by sitting down, refusing to move and shaking, so we took the lead off and went in.

The poor little dog is in this state before a walk even starts, so no wonder he is hyper-vigilant and reactive once out. A dog with this level of stress is incapable of learning anything – it does things to the brain. See this.

The cornerstone to their success will be to give their little dogs choice and a way out – an escape. If the dog doesn’t want to move, then the walk should be abandoned.

The lady’s day starts with about half an hour of mayhem as she walks the dogs together before going to work. It’s a nightmare for her too, but she does it as a caring dog owner believing that she’s doing her best for them. She hadn’t seen that where they are concerned this sort of walk is doing more harm than good. A walk should leave a dog happy, relaxed and satisfied, not a nervous wreck needing frantic activity afterwards in order to unwind.

Plenty of happy, short five-minutes sessions is what these little dogs need for now. With lots of repetition and keeping well within the threshold where they feel safe, they can slowly  become acclimatised to the outside world at their own pace. It will be great when they at last feel sufficiently safe to start sniffing as dogs should do. They should always feel they have an escape route. So far they have in effect been ‘flooded’ – with the best of intentions forced into a situation they can’t cope with.

We can’t undo five years in five weeks or probably even five months. It will take time.

Our little experiment with each dog showed the people just how slowly they will have to take things and in what tiny increments, but it’s encouraging, too, because at last they have a plan to work on that makes sense and is kind.

It will all now need some really careful planning. They will have a routine for getting the dogs out one at a time with as little stress as possible. Although walks are an ordeal, neither dog wants to be left behind. I feel they should always go out in the same order so they learn just what to expect and the second one out always knows his turn will come.

There is one big positive. This is that they Lenny and Evan are fine when other dogs have come to their house, proving they are not scared of dogs per se but only when they are feeling unsafe in the scary outside world and trapped on the end of a lead.

Feedback nearly three weeks later: I feel that the boys have made sooooo much progress already, I know its a slow progress and I have all the patience in the world….but to date, I am very happy. We have been able to move to full round the block walks with both of them quiet and they are indications that they are enjoying it too. They are starting to sniff a lot. Alfie sniffs more than bert, bert is watches me.
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 these two. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. 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).

Springy Springer Spaniel

Springer Sophie can't settleSophie is a 7-year-old Springer Spaniel. She is stressed and hyperactive for much of the time, panting, pacing and crying. This can continue for hours and she only really settles within the confines and restrictions of her crate. It can be very tiring for her family. Sophie is also friendly and gentle. She’s adorable but for some reason troubled. Possibly some of it is genetic as apparently she was even worse when she was younger and they have had help from two or three trainers over the years. Instead of improving she is now getting worse.

Because out on walks she has taken to literally screaming and lunging whenever she sees one of the many cats in the neighbourhood or other dogs, and because her pulling on lead is such a strain, she no longer is taken on walks. All that ‘training’, along with having tried most gadgets they can get such as head halters, various leads and harnesses, has not stopped Sophie pulling. This is because she still wants to pull! I would be willing to guarantee, if they put in the time and effort to do it my way, that she will eventually be walking nicely and willingly beside them on a loose lead, not wanting to pull. I have many many successful cases to prove this. Time and patience are the two operative words – along with knowing the technique. Sophie now is taken out so seldom that the outside world is simply a sensory overload of smells, action, sSpringerSophieounds and potential danger.

Calm walks don’t start at the door, they start with a calm dog at home who has impulse control before encountering all the added stimulation of the outside world – so at home is where it starts. Sophie’s stress levels need to be reduced dramatically and she needs to learn to focus on her owners and what they are asking of her. To achieve this, they will need to earn her respect and attention by how they themselves behave with her.

Sophie is a clever dog but a frustrated dog, with no outlet for her energy or her brains. This will now change (I hope).

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Introducing a New Dog Did Not Go Well

Staffordshire Bull Terrier doesn't like anotehr dog in her home

Ruby

This is quite a sad story of things not going to plan on the day and of hindsight being a wonderful thing.

Ruby is a five-year-old Staffie cross of brilliant temperament in all but one respect – she is very much on edge around other dogs.  She always has been. I believe this could be something to do with her leaving her litter mates too young and therefore not having company of other dogs in the crucial early weeks. When she meets dogs on walks her hackles go up and she growls – obviously scared.

Ruby’s owners wanted to rescue a dog that was very much in need of a home, so they chose Jojo, a 9-month-old Pointer mix from a rescue centre in Southern Spain.

Jojo arrived last week. She was expected during the day but was delivered by lorry at 11 o’clock at night!

This immediately wiped out any plans they may have had for introducing the dogs in neutral territory in the park.

Rescue Pointer mix from Spain is eager to please

Jojo

The dogs were crated for the night, and already things were going wrong.  It could well have been easier for Ruby if they had chosen a dog rather than a bitch. The  two dogs could eyeball one another from their crates. Jojo is a mild mannered and easy-going young dog, but Ruby will have been feeling increasingly threatened and territorial.

In the morning the dogs were let out of their crates. There will have been a lot of tension from the humans. Ruby was showing classic signs of anxiety, continually glancing at Jojo and then deliberately looking away. The gentleman stood between the dogs giving what he felt were calming words but the dogs would not have been fooled. Before they knew what had happened, Jojo was screaming in the corner, pinned by Ruby. No damage was actually done so it was probably just  a big warning. Poor Jojo. What a difficult introduction to her new home.

Another more minor episode followed the next day, so now Jojo is temporarily living with the gentleman’s mother. I was called in to help them prepare both dogs for a fresh start.

This is tricky. There are things Ruby does and is allowed to do that could be potential for trouble, and these have to be dealt with first. How the owners now react when they meet other dogs when out is very important. Not only does Ruby’s behaviour need some work, but they need to change things round a bit and gate the kitchen doorway.

We have a plan for a controlled meeting between Ruby and Jojo in the park, initially at a good distance until, hopefully, walking on lead near each and ideally back home together. Once home it will be a bigger problem and they need initially to kept apart so they can see one another but not make contact, separated by a gate or in crates, for as long as it takes to work on the situation. The demeanor of the humans is very important. Patience, calm and quiet is needed and in particular Ruby must not be scolded if she growls.

After the unfortunate start and knowing no different, they did what they thought was best, but the first encounter should have been approached differently. Now that this has happened it will take longer as Ruby will already be on the defensive. It is a blessing that Jojo, who in the rescue centre had been mixing with other dogs, is not unduly fazed by Ruby. What a fantastic temperament she has!

If a dog is already not good around other dogs, another dog suddenly in her own home must be an ordeal for her.

This is from an email I received three and a half months after my visit: “When we go out together, the dogs are on their leads and walk so well together – Ruby tends to lead the way, Jojo likes to follow her, sniffing where she sniffs etc.  When we get home, we all go in together – the dogs are ‘nose to backside’ as we go in! ….In the evenings we do still rotate the dogs in/out of their pens. …. they still just take it turns to be penned downstairs, maybe an hour at a time.  Now and again
Staffordshire Bull Terrier doesn't like another dog in her home

JoJo

I’ve had Jojo on my lap on the armchair while Mike and Ruby are on the sofa – they seemed relaxed with it.  The other night all four of us were on the sofa – dog/human/dog/human – both Ruby and Jojo very chilled – so nice!
We’ve discovered Jojo likes to dig!  She has made a great big hole in the lawn which we’ve decided to leave in case she wants to make other holes.  She enjoys herself so much, dropping one of her chewy bones in it, then digging it out again – doggy bliss! Today we took Jojo to a Fun Day at a local RSPCA centre and entered her into the ‘fun dog show’.  We had a lovely day and she won 1st place for Best Condition Mixed Breed!
So that’s the story so far Theo….not quite living freely together yet but a pretty relaxed household, so watch this space!
The two dogs lying together
Six months after my visit: “In the evenings both dogs are now out of their pens : ) Mike and I on sofa with one or both of us between them – Ruby pretty chilled about it now and Jo not so conscious of her. ….They have actually been left a few times dozing on the sofa togetherfor a few minutes. We’re still trying to keep that calm atmosphere which we know now is SO important with Ruby….We don’t take the muzzle on walks anymore. She rarely even whines now when she sees other dogs and is keen to go and meet them….. Theo – really pleased with the way things are still going – still heading in the right direction!  Thanks so much again for your ongoing help”. Here is a photo – and whilst Ruby isn’t totally relaxed a huge step forward.
And nine months after my visit, “Just to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy new year! All is great here, can actually say that Ruby and JoJo are now living freely together. They seem relaxed with eachother – nice content dogs”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.