Control – Carrot or Stick?

GSD lying down

Murphy

Update on two dogs I saw some weeks ago.

After a run of German Shepherds who are very reactive to anyone coming into their home, it was great to go to a Shepherd who welcomed me immediately.  Murphy and Mastiff-type Bailey are well socialised, well-trained and gentle with their children.

Carrot – or stick?

Continue reading…

From Street Dog to House Dog. Outside World Overstimulating

Sasha finds the outside world overstimulating.

A street dog by birth, eighteen-month-old Sasha has adapted amazingly well to life in a house. This is a tribute to both her basic temperament and to her new family’s own efforts.

She finds the outside world overstimulating

She started life on the streets in India. They think she has Pointer in her. I see possibly Labrador and German Shepherd. A beautiful mix, she doesn’t look like the typical street dog.

At five months old, along with her brother, she was caught and placed in a pound where she stayed for another seven months until the couple adopted her six months ago. Continue reading…

No Impulse Control Around People. Jumps and Bites.

Beau has no impulse control around peopleAbsolutely no impulse control around people, that is the problem.

Beautiful Beau is a big strong Chocolate Labrador. He’s 9 months of age and his teeth hurt. With no impulse control, his biting and grabbing of my clothes would have been nearly constant had not the lady held him back. It was a struggle for her.

I have to call it ‘biting’ because he was using his teeth with some force, but there was no aggression behind it. No growling or hostility. There wasn’t fear either though possibly the level of his arousal involved more than just pleasure to see me. He will have been uncertain as well.

Jumping, biting and no impulse control has become his default response for dealing with the excitement he feels.

Both the lady and her adult son are accustomed to being bitten when Beau gets too excited. He bites sufficiently hard to bruise but not to break skin. He was an unusually nippy and bitey puppy. Like many people, they will unwittingly have encouraged teeth on human flesh through play – contact sports using their hands.

No impulse control.

A stitch in time saves nine, as they say. If, from the outset when Beau was a little puppy, both jumping up and grabbing with teeth were consistently and persistently met with no reinforcement but an acceptable alternative offered, he wouldn’t be doing it now.

Tug of war played properly is a much better game. Puppy has to learn that if teeth even unintentionally touch flesh, all fun immediately stops. He then learns to be careful.

Usually dogs like this will have very high stress levels and constantly be ready to ‘explode’. This doesn’t seem the case with Beau. His home is calm. Generally he’s no more excited than any other 9-month-old Labrador, but when he does get aroused, it’s always teeth.

Beau is given plenty of enrichment and he’s not left alone for too long. He doesn’t do the usual things that build stress in a dog such as excessive barking, getting over-excited before a walk and panicking when left alone.

It’s all around people

He has no impulse control around people. When someone comes to his house or if they meet people when out on a walk he morphs into a different dog.

Why does he find people quite so stimulating, I wonder? He has been very well socialised from the start.

The lady so much wants to have social walks with her lovely dog and to invite friends round, but she can’t because he bites them! Things are getting worse. Could this be that she herself is becoming increasingly anxious? As I sat with her in the kitchen, I could feel her very understandable tension and anxiety. If I could feel it, then so would Beau.

Having been rehearsing the biting and jumping for months since he was a small puppy, it will now be learned behaviour – a habit.

How can we break it?

Learned behaviour – a habit.

What we have to work on is both the cause of the behaviour as well as the behaviour itself – and this cause is over-excitement around people and no self-control when aroused.

To succeed, Beau must be prevented from rehearsing the biting anymore in every way possible. It simply has to be made impossible. Without an experienced professional actually living with them with nothing else to do than work with Beau, I can see no other way than extensive use of a basket muzzle to begin with. When he gets his ‘rough’ times at home with his family, when friends visit and when he’s out and likely to encounter people, his mouth has to be taken out of action.

This will be much better than banishing him.

A basket muzzle is best because he has freedom open and close his mouth, to drink and to eat treats. If introduced properly so that it’s always associated with good things, he shouldn’t mind it too much. I know this could be controversial.

Without now being hurt, they must now teach him different habits and better ways of getting attention. He also needs better ways of relieving his quick-building arousal and frustration levels. In removing the ability to bite from his repertoire, they need to supply replacement activities and outlets.

I suggested a gate for the kitchen so at times when he’s likely to use his teeth or when people come, he can go behind it with something acceptable to chew until he has calmed down. Use of ‘No’ and ‘Down’ can only increase his frustration whilst in a way being reinforcing to him as well.

Self control.

When I was there, Beau held lead on harness to prevent the biting of me, we constantly used his food to reinforce every moment of desired behaviour.  He sat, he got food. He lay down and was silently rolled a piece of his kibble.

The emphasis must now be on reinforcing the behaviour that they DO want. People, when out, will be kept at whatever distance is necessary while they work on his self-control using positive reinforcement. He will learn that sitting or standing calmly brings dividends but this is only possible when not too close.

Jumping and biting is simply Beau’s default both when aroused or when feeling unsure of himself – both at home and when out on walks.

We shouldn’t underestimate the effectiveness of a dog having something in his mouth where the teeth are, whether it’s a ball, something that squeaks or even a bone! It all depends – all dogs are different.

What actually is excitement anyway and is it always pure joy? Wouldn’t we feel excited on a Big Dipper? Wouldn’t we be feeling scared before a bungee jump and isn’t that part of the buzz?

As Beau gains some self control and is helped to calm down around people, the muzzle can be used less and less until it’s no longer necessary.

 

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 Beau. 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. The muzzle idea may be totally inappropriate in another case. 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).

 

Under Control, Self-Control and Being Relevant

under control

Obi and Leia

I was greeted by nine-month-old Cocker Spaniel, Leia, flying all over me in delight. It was largely my fault the two young dogs weren’t under control. Both Leia and fifteen-month-old Obi had been trained to go to their ‘place’ when someone comes in. Quite impressive for such excitable dogs. I had interrupted that.

They don’t, however, stay on their place for more than a second unless continually returned to it.

When not under control they have little self-control.

The two dogs have been going to training classes. They have also started gun dog training which should help to satisfy some of Obi’s unfulfilled instincts. Both dogs have a good vocab of ‘commands’ and enjoy training games.

‘Commands’ learnt in traditional training classes don’t always transfer to real life. One reason for this is arousal and another is distraction. It’s hard to keep a young dog like Leia sitting still somewhere, under control, when with her whole being she wants to fly all over the place in wild excitement!

Self-control is acquired by the dog working out what works by only reinforcing the wanted behaviour. She then understands what is required without having to be told. Modern classes now use clicker training, shaping etc. so dogs learn for themselves.

This wasn’t the actual purpose of my visit. The family would like to trust Obi around other dogs and also to come back when called.

He has become increasingly grumpy when approached by certain dogs though will never make the first move. He is fine if they leave him alone. It seems that it’s young dogs and puppies that are the problem.

The other day he pinned down and bit a young puppy.

There are two problems for Obi that I see.

One is that he is highly aroused and on a near-obsessive sniff and hunt all the time he’s out. Everything else is shut out including the person walking him. The other is that while he’s working hard at hunting and sniffing he doesn’t want to be interrupted, particularly by a young and bouncy dog.

Lost in his own world, Obi will totally ignore, probably doesn’t even hear, being called.

Since he began to be grumpy with other dogs about six months ago, Obi is mostly kept under control on lead. He strains against it, deprived of his sniffing ‘fix’.

Working to improve walks, the young man will be:

Getting and holding Obi’s attention by being relevant and motivating.

Changing the way walks with Obi are done.

Changing the way walks are done

If Obi were more engaged with his walker, the young man, he would be less fixated on his own activities all the time. It stands to reason that other dogs interfering with what he’s doing would be likely to worry him less.

It will be hard work because this ‘Spaniel’ sniffing is giving Obi’s brain something he really needs. It can’t be simply prevented. It needs to be controlled or replaced.

Walks now will be something altogether different from the time they leave the house. Instead of trying to control an Obi who is pulling him down the road from one sniff to another, the young man can work at making pavement walks something a bit unpredictable and more fun (I call them drunken walks!). He needs to make himself even more relevant (he already puts in a lot of effort with the training and a bit of added psychology should now help).

In open spaces Obi can no longer be trusted off lead. Like the off-lead dogs that run up to him ought to be, he is kept under control. On a long line he has a degree of freedom and they can work on recall.

Here is a very good link for people wanting to teach a busy spaniel to stay near them – quartering.

Just a change of tactic can make a big difference.

I’m sure the young man won’t mind my quoting the email he just sent me the following day, having tried really engaging with Obi on the morning walk. You can see that the lad is a star!

‘I took him for a drunken road walk this morning. And as if by magic! I think he started (pulling and sniffing) twice for about 10 seconds and I was able to get him back on attention. I felt a fool doing it but the way he looked at me on the walk made me forget about it. I wasn’t sure if he was looking at me as though I’d invented sliced bread or whether he thought I was so nuts that he felt he had to keep on eye on me. But, he didn’t pull, not once. We stopped halfway and went on the long line to do some smelling games on a small field, played some fetch and with the long line managed to get him bringing the ball back and dropping it, as his attention started to dwindle we called it a day and moved on. Next time I will move on before it starts to dwindle. I let him hold onto the ball during the walk and like you said, he was more interested in holding the ball than smelling. He was walking, but not like a spaniel, his head was up for most of the walk and flitting between looking at me and looking ahead. He was rarely ahead of me.’

Self control – not ‘under control’.

A good start.

 

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 Obi. 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 any form of aggression 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).

 

Impulse Control Lacking, at Home and on Walks

Much of Blue’s early life was spent in a crate after he and his brother began to fight. He was rehomed. Next he was in another bad situation before being taken in by a rescue and fostered by someone with fifteen dogs.

Now introduced to a steady home life, it’s little wonder Blue is lacking impulse control. It must be a lot to get used to.

He is amazingly friendly and adaptable considering his life over the past three years.

I would sum Blue up as eager to please and biddable…

…and lacking in impulse control.

Lacking impulse controlThere is a good reason the photos are blurred! He was seldom still.

His new humans are incredibly tolerant, but when he becomes too much, Blue is put in the bathroom so they can have a break. He doesn’t make a fuss. He’s very accepting.

We had to put him away for a while because his jumping all over us meant he was such hard work that it was impossible to talk.

They want him to stop jumping all over friends and family who come to their house.

They are doing their best to ‘train’ him out of it, but commands may arouse him even more and also give him the attention he is craving. Also consistency is key – not sometimes with some people, but always with everyone – themselves included. It’s only fair for him to know what is expected of him.

Each time the dog did this to me I turned my head away and gently stood to tip him off. I then was nice to him when his feet were on the floor. He got the message. As he started to understand what was required of him, he began to show just a little impulse control.

They have now had Blue for four weeks and already he’s improved in some areas while maybe getting worse in others.

Blue is scared of the dark, particularly cars in the dark.

They can work on this fear in the safety of just outside their own front door, getting him used to being out at night time and the passing cars from a safe distance.

During the day he’s not too confident either. He will bark at other dogs when he’s on lead. This could well be made worse because when he barks, the lady holds him tightly on a chain lead, her own anxiety rippling down it.

Bit by bit they will help Blue to gain confidence and impulse control. Already he has been taught several cues. Now he needs to learn how to stop, listen and wait.

They will give him a good selection of things to work on and to wreck! Instead of chasing his tail, squirming noisily on his back on the floor, charging up the stairs, raiding surfaces, nibbling people and so on, they can give him alternatives to relieve his stress and frustrations.

A box of rubbish can give him something to attack!

Why throw the recycling rubbish away? Why not give it to the dog first! Milk or water bottles, toilet roll tubes and screwed up paper make a great free toy.

A marrow bone can give him something to literally get his teeth into and will calm him. He can hunt for his tea – see SprinklesTM. They will have tiny food rewards to hand to keep him motivated and to reinforce calm.

One of the first things I look at when a dog is so hyperactive is his diet. In this case the wonderful couple had beaten me to it – they have already put him on the best food they can find. His skin and coat have changed dramatically. When they first took him in four weeks ago his tummy was red and raw and his tail worn hairless. Now his coat is growing shiny and healthy.

Blue is at the start of a very good new life.

A message five weeks later from a couple who have worked very hard with their new dog – and this is just the beginning: He is getting so good he puts himself in the bathroom when the door knocks and on walks if we see or hear another dog he looks to me for a treat and calms down a lot quicker than at first.

Herding Behaviour When Indoors

Two Border Collies

Molly and Ben

Sometimes what our pet dogs were originally bred for can make some aspects of modern life within the confines of a house hard for them.

Border Collie, Ben, is one such dog. From the first time their baby granddaughter came into their house the very friendly, well-socialised dog became extremely agitated. Now that she’s a toddler he is even more distressed.

He whines and paces around her, he pants and sometimes barks and they feel might nip her if he got the chance. In addition to what seems like a version of herding behaviour when in her presence, he continues to whine and stress all the time she is in the house, even when he’s shut somewhere else. It’s like he is obsessed with her. Obviously they are never left alone. The little girl is unfazed and their other Collie, one-year-old Molly, loves her.

Sitting with the two very friendly and relaxed dogs who had calmed down after their wonderful welcome of me, it was hard to believe that six-year-old Ben could be any different, until they tuned into an animal programme on the TV.

At the sight or sound of an animal Ben whines and runs about. He paces and crouches. He will then get into more of a frenzy and lunge and bark at the TV.  I saw this for myself.

I started to work with him with the TV on and instead of the usual trying to stop the behaviour, I concentrated on showing him what he could be doing instead each time he looked at the animal. He reacted calmly for a couple of minutes or so before becoming aroused, not helped by Molly who was now joining in by barking at Ben.

It was obvious that they will need to put Molly behind a gate and work in very short sessions with Ben. They will start by making things as easy as possible, maybe the TV on mute or an animal image paused. They can slowly, over time, build up from there.

What is interesting is that the dog acts in such a similar way with the little girl. They can be using much the same sort of approach around the child as they do around the TV.

Border Collie lying on carpet

Ben

They will do repeated very short sessions.

I deliberately don’t describe exactly what we did because the specific strategies may not work in all cases and if wrongly interpreted may make matters worse.

Molly must be out-of-the-way and they can start when it’s easiest on Ben – when the child is sitting still in her high chair (they can’t sit her in front of the TV of course, because an animal may come on!). One grandparent can be with the child and the other bring Ben in on a long and loose lead, attached to a harness, so they have complete control over him all the time and so that he’s comfortable also.

Gradually, as Ben settles, they can have the child walking about, holding one grandparent’s hand while the other grandparent works with Ben.

Interestingly he’s only like this with the child when they are indoors. Out in the garden or off lead on a walk, he takes no notice of her.

There is one other big thing that I feel majorly affects Ben’s anxiety and stress around the TV and the baby, and this is both dogs’ lack of self-control. When they go for a walk, there is frantic and excited barking – to see who can rush out through the door first. Multiple commands go on deaf ears. Molly also is a big jumper at people. Again, commands do no good.

So, before they get to work on TV and baby, a calmer, more controlled environment needs to be created. With patience, the dogs will learn that the back door isn’t opened until both of them are quiet and hang back a bit – and this need not be done using commands at all. At present their noise and jumping is rewarded with the back door being opened. It now simply has to be the opposite!

All this arousal needs to be reduced in order that Ben’s stress levels are as low as possible before they embark on their work with him. Getting the background stuff in place can initially seem a lot for people to do, but these things have to be put established first so that they can make good progress with the lovely, friendly Ben.

They need also to work on doggy ‘remote control’! In addition to coming immediately away from something when asked, both dogs should also be trained to go to a bed or mat when asked so they can be sent away to settle down if necessary.

It would be great if, one day, the little girl could be watching the TV with both dogs lying peacefully on the floor nearby or in their settle places. Border Collies are so clever and trainable that with hard work and patience they should get there 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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ben and Molly. 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).

Young Dalmation is Out of Control

When I say ‘ouYoung Dalmationt of control’, I don’t mean Gizmo needs more ‘being under control’. The six-month-old Dalmatian needs more self-control. This is impossible when he is bored stiff and unfulfilled and when his antics are what gets him the craved-for attention.

I go to so many young dogs and puppies who are simply bouncing of the walls and their busy owners just don’t know what to do with them. When they carried the adorable tiny puppy home they had no concept of the time and effort a puppy needs in order for him to grow to be the family pet they dreamed of.

Gizmo’s owners are a young couple with a toddler and a baby now on the way too. In their small house the lady is finding it very hard to fulfill both her little daughter’s needs and her dog’s. If he is shut out of the room he does damage. He flies all over the chairs and all over people. He digs in the garden and he chews up the carpet. He steals and eats the child’s toys and he has now been through several beds.

It can understandably cause some conflict when the man comes home to a big welcome from the dog but has little concept of how it really is for his partner who is trying to cope all day with a demanding baby and even more demanding dog. She can’t exercise Gizmo because she can’t leave baby alone and because of his ‘wild’ behaviour and pulling she can’t take them together.

Things got so bad for the lady, who also worries how they will cope when the new baby in a few months’ time, that a week ago they advertised Gizmo and sold him. They came home in tears.

They then went and fetched him back again and called me out. They hadn’t realised, despite the problems, just how much they loved him until he wasn’t there.

A common problem is that people are resistant to making the necessary changes even though they are only temporary. Crates and gates clutter up the house. Chew toys and activity boxes can make a big mess. It is simpler to put a chain lead on a dog so it can be controlled through force than to change equipment and put time into training it to walk nicely. I am a firm believer in the saying: ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

We are starting on just three things before I go again next week – three things they should realistically be able to make sYoung Dalmation with Stagbarome headway with so the lady feels a little more encouraged to keep going.

Firstly, they should look for and reward all the good, calm moments including standing still, sitting and lying down – we practised this. Secondly, they must be consistent about Gizmo’s jumping up on people and on the chairs. If they don’t want the dog to do something – then it has to be every time. He also needs to know what it is they do want instead. Thirdly, the poor quality of his diet can only encourage manic behaviour so that needs changing, and with food left down they have nothing left to reward and motivate him with. So, he needs proper meals and proper food.

Next time we will take things further. We will look at ideas for occupying his brain and starting walking work so the lady can eventually take both dog and baby out for walks together safely.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Gizmo, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Human Control v. Self Control

Pug Jack Russell cross stressed and pantingBecause Pug-Jack Russell mix Freddie wasn’t being ‘controlled’, he was all over the place. He was waiting to be told what to do – or more what not to do. Like so many people, they do their best to control his behaviour by using NO and constant commands like ‘Get Down’, so Freddie is seldom left to work things out for himself and it’s not surprising that he lacks self control.

This isn’t to suggest for one minute that he’s not well treated – he is adored by the whole family who do the best they know how. The bottom line is, though, that if what they currently do worked they wouldn’t need help, so they need to be doing something different.

Freddie is more Pug than Jack Russell

Freddie is more Pug than Jack Russell

While I was there Freddie did all sorts of things ‘he never does anymore’, like jumping up behind me on the sofa and humping my arm, chewing my ear and grabbing and pulling at my sleeve.

I allowed this to happen to show them how to teach Freddie the behaviour that we do want, not because I feel these are in any way desirable behaviours. I needed him to do the unwanted behaviour so I could show him that it got no reaction or attention whatsoever and to show him how much more rewarding it is when he’s not doing it! I used clicker for marking every moment his behaviour was even momentarily what we wanted and both Freddie and the three family members caught on really fast. We can look at teaching him alternative acceptable behaviours when he’s in a calmer state.

He has an almost OCD ritual when he goes out into the garden – he is frequently asking to go out. He flies up at the door handle until it’s opened, then he spins, barking, just outside the door, followed by running a barking circuit of the garden. Then he may either toilet or want to come in again.

Teaching two-year-old Freddie self control and self calm is going to take time and stress reduction is the priority. All evening he was pacing, panting, drinking, asking to gWhat a long tongueo out, barking at TV when it was on briefly, humping me or grabbing my clothes and back to pacing, and so on. Not getting his usual responses was very hard on him so the behaviour intensified. He only settled briefly twice – and we made sure we marked and rewarded those moments whilst not setting him off again.

His high stress levels are at the root of all the things they want to eliminate, his barking at TV, his reactivity to people and dogs on walks, his fear of traffic, his jumping up and so on. Telling him off for barking or sending him to his bed doesn’t help him at all.

He needs to be allowed to work out for himself what works and what doesn’t. Already the 16-year-old lad who is very involved with the little dog has shown him that the door opens when he’s not jumping at the handle – simply by waiting until he’s sitting, saying ‘yes’ immediately and quickly opening the door. He then accompanied the dog out – walked Freddie well away from the door, thus breaking the sequence of his spinning ritual.

Freddie’s reactivity is inconsistent – the main variable being, I’m sure, his stress levels at the current time. In the mornings he is a lot calmer both at home and on his walk, having had the night for the stresses of the previous day to subside a bit. As the day wears on, things simply build up. Only when the whole family finally settles will he, too, settle – so long as there’s nothing to bark at on TV.

The ultimate goal is for FFreddiepug3reddie to live happily with the daughter’s dog when the two families move in together. Introducing the two dogs will need to be done very carefully and only after Freddie has made considerable headway.

Five days have gone by and the family is really pulling together. They have a long way to go, but today’s news is really encouraging and they have been doing their best to keep Freddie as calm as possible. They sent me this lovely photo and message: ‘Freddie chilled with me TV quite noisy, he’s had a lot of praise today’.
Two weeks later:  ‘I am curious that over the last few days Freddie has started to sniff and stop more when we are walking,walking along sniffing the floor not pulling.I am taking this to mean he is less agitated and therefore more curious about his surroundings.This morning I chose to walk along by the road away from the path on the grass about 10ft from road.He was sniffing and searching.This totally distracted him from the passing cars,I also praised him for this and gave him chicken. He alerted to one dog although I turned around and he was fine’.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Freddie, which is why I don’t go into 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).

 

Rushes Over to Other Dogs

MillyYorkeNot all dogs like a little dog to rush up to them and jump all over them. So far Milly has come to no harm.

Three-year-old Yorkie/Terrier cross Milly is an absolute delight – a little bundle of friendliness and joy. Many of the people I go to would love to have a dog whose problem is being too friendly with other dogs, rather than being fearful, barking and reactive.

Milly runs up and play bows, jumps about and invites them for a game.  She’s not deterred if they don’t want to know.

Understandably,  the lady wants Milly to come back to her more readily when other dogs are about, and not to pull towards them so enthusiastically when she’s on lead.

If it were not for this uncontrolled excitement when she sees another dog (which may just also be her way of dealing with slight anxiety) , life with Milly would be perfect.

The lady may now get her dog’s attention more easily if she uses a whistle when Milly’s off lead and sees a dog. She needs first to pair the whistle with extra-special tasty rewards and to practise over and over at home and also when out but only when she knows that Milly will come, before she uses it for real to call her back from running eagerly over to a dog.

Milly is currently kept on quite a short lead and she pulls. She would like to sniff more than she’s allowed. When they see a dog she’s held back and made to walk at the lady’s pace towards it.

Now the lady will be using a longer lead and giving Milly some slack – and time to sniff. I recently discovered the notion of ‘Smell Walks‘ which I think are a great idea. She should then be more relaxed.

When a dog approaches the lady will bend over and gently restrain her by her harness, and just as with the puppy in my previous post, teach her some self-control, being calmly encouraging. The lady will check first to see if the other dog is going to welcome Milly’s attentions, and only then will she release Milly and give her the length of the lead when the dog is close enough.  If the dog isn’t interested, then they can wait until it’s passed before carrying on with their walk.

This will take a while, but isn’t it great to have a dog whose only problem is being too friendly!

At the end of their month: ‘We are constantly going forward with our work, Milly’s recall is so much better now and she comes instantly. Her constant barking has now stopped, she has got the message at last. The barking at the tv is subsiding. She will bark at the tv and then automatically look at me then she puts herself to bed. I haven’t sent her to bed for barking at the tv since we began with you. If I have any problems, I will be in touch. Thank you for your help.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Milly, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Bites ‘out of the blue’. Manners. Self control.

Bites out of the blue?

Patch

Reserved crossbreed Freya

Freya

Yesterday I met beautiful two year old rescued Boxer/Staffie cross Patch who lives with delightful but more reserved crossbreed Freya.

I knew that I was there because Patch had bitten four people. It was just so hard to imagine him being a dog that bites. There were absolutely no vibes around him.

Adorable.

Behaviour ‘health check’

I like to take all the background first before focusing on the perceived problem. Usually the problem (Patch bites) is a symptom of other things, not the cause.

The dogs live with a family of four, the youngest being seventeen. It was evident that certain members of the family give the dogs, especially Patch, non-stop attention.

They give him attention whenever he demands it and the give him attention when he’s not demanding it. Sometimes he may wish to be left alone. It’s all a bit high key. He jumps all over them and it’s encouraged.

This leads to a certain lack of manners and self-control which affects Patch’s reactivity of other dogs when out.

We picked apart each of the four occasions when Patch had bitten someone. We need to find out everything possible running up to the bites, during the bite, and what happened immediately afterwards.

Bites out of the blue?

The strange thing is that the biting really does seem without warning, out of the blue. Twice he launched himself at someone’s stomach and the other two times it was as the person walked away from them. There was no growling. Nobody was looming over him or trying to touch him. They didn’t react angrily.

There were only a few common denominators: the victims were people he didn’t know and each person had been standing. Freya had been present and on the run-up Patch may have been a little more stressed than usual.

Apart from that I could see no obvious cause and nothing more in common between the incidents.

However, the next day in conversation with a colleague, it hit me! On each occasion Patch was being ignored!

Spoiled dog ignored

On three occasions the family members’ attention was on the other person and not on Patch. On the fourth, the person was walking away from him. I believe that just like a spoilt child that might kick someone if he doesn’t get his own way, Patch launches himself and bites.

I have asked the family to work on behaviours incompatible with launching and biting someone; they will put a few demands and constraints upon him.

In time they should be getting Patch to work for them by teaching him to do things they want, exercising his brain. They will use rewards so that good things are earned and not always free. He then should better be able to cope with the frustration of not being the centre of attention.

If by any chance I am wrong, our strategies are still appropriate. He will become a dog with better self-control, healthy mental stimulation and better manners…and no bites.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.