Very Scared of People

Rudy looks more English Bull Terrier in the photo but you can see the pale Husky eyes16-month-old Rudy looks more English Bull Terrier in the photo but you can see the pale Husky eyes. A beautiful dog and quite unusual looking. Because of this he attracts attention, and human attention is what he can’t handle.

Like so many of the dogs I go to, his start in life was far from ideal. From the time he left his mother and litter mates at 8 weeks old and until he was four months old, he was shut in a room all alone for hours on end, before being returned to the breeder. The most valuable weeks of his life for socialising and happily encountering many different things including lots of people, had been lost. My clients then took him on.

Rudy is terrified of people coming to the house. He barks and hackles, but is also ready to run. He may empty his bladder if approached. He has never bitten. He barks constantly when anyone he doesn’t know well comes to the house – so much that nobody can speak. Unfortunately this has led to a lot of shouting which simply makes things worse. Very unusually for him, he quietened down for me very quickly and we were able to talk after a few minutes, which goes to show how, if the visitors use the right signals and body language, don’t approach or stare at him and stay seated, if his owners too keep quiet and calm, he can be helped. He is watching me in the photo, fairly calm – but that would change quickly if I were to suddenly stand up.

The other major problem is that he is so dependent upon the presence of the lady in particular that for a year they have seldom gone out. The couple are almost prisoners in their home because they can neither have visitors nor go out and leave him.

So we have two big problems to deal with, fear of people and fear of being left. It is going to take a long time because each must be dealt with in tiny increments, a step at a time, with a lot of patience, and definitely NO SHOUTING!

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

Dog panics when the lady is out of sight

Ben is settling in to his new lifeI was contacted by the Cinnamon Trust – an excellent national charity that helps people in their last years with their much loved, much needed companion animals. They asked me to help with Ben, a seven-year-old  mix of probably whippet, terrier and collie,

Until four weeks ago, Ben lived with a gentleman of ninety-eight who now is in hospital and will not be able to go home again. The couple initially fostering him for what they thought was going to be just one week, will now be giving him a permanent home.

Ben is extremely attached to the lady – uncomfortably so. I am sure he has transferred his attachment to the old man onto her. Both of them, in the nicest way possible, use Ben to fulfil their own needs for love and company – and in the case of the lovely lady, to lavish with her abundance of love and warmth.

Ben simply finds it all too overwhelming and he really does his best. The lady is interacting with him constantly. They so badly want him to be happy. It’s just too much for a delicate soul like Ben. He displays classic calming signals – lip licking, yawning and tongue flicking.  He is far too much the focus of attention, to the extent that, like a drug, he gets stressed when she stops. This is very unnatural for a dog.

If he can’t let the lady out of his sight in the house, there is little chance he will be happy when she goes out of the front door. He barks non-stop until someone comes home. When the lady comes home his relief is manic and overwhelming – less so for her husband. It’s rather like she is Ben’s child. He has to watch her constantly.

Ben has a wonderful home and they have a lovely dog.  When he is released from quite so much responsibility and attention, and allowed to live more of a normal independent dog’s life – to stand on his own four legs – I am sure he will start to feel more secure when left alone and less worried that something dire may happen to the lady if he’s not there to watch her, or that she may not return.

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

Little Havanese is Worshipped

Havanese Tilly lying asleep on the carpetIf little Tilly lay on a sheepskin rug one could easily trip over her! She is an eleven-year-old Havanese who came to live in her new home about fifteen months ago. Her new owners worship her. It can be hard when you’ve not had a dog before, and believe you are doing the best for your dog.

With the thousands of dogs I have been to, I have never met a Havanese before. The reason could be twofold – that they are rare and also that they well adapted to living as companion dogs.

A Havanese is the national dog of Cuba, considered an ideal family pet. They don’t like being left alone. Tilly is very distressed indeed when the lady in particular ‘deserts her’. In fact, she has become progressively worse over the past year or so, confirming that it’s the human behaviour we need to look at (as usual;).

All dogs can be acclimatised to short periods alone if it’s done correctly – even the less independent breeds. Tilly is waited on hand and foot – by the gentleman in particular, a warm and loving man. He is up and down following her about and seeing to her every whim, constantly touching her and fretting. The lady is over-anxious about Tilly’s happiness and welfare, and at times the little dog is the centre of constant care, attention, petting and anxiety. This isn’t good for her.

Tilly will be asking to go out and when the door is opened refuse to go! When they themselves want her to go out, extreme measures are used to entice her to go, a treat trail along the floor or hyping her up with ‘CATS’! She will only do things under her own terms. She jumps onto them every time she wishes, but if asked to come she refuses and turns her back. She licks the gentleman constantly.  It is all too much and it makes her stressed.

Tilly is inseparable from the lady and follows her wherever she goes. When the lady is there she refuses to have anything to do with gentleman – unless it’s to jump on his lap and lick him obsessively. This is a recipe for separation issues when they go out. The gentleman is at work all day, but the lady simply has to go out from time to time. It needs to be worked at gradually, with comings and going being a lot more matter-of-fact. Tilly has to learn that whenever the lady goes out of sight she always comes back.

This little dog is severely stressed by being the chief decision-maker and centre of the universe. Like many people, what they think is kind actually is not at all. Many things need to be the very opposite of what a kind and loving human may be doing. Welcomes need to be casual, touching and petting needs to be rationed, the dog shouldn’t be obeyed every time, food should be offered but the dog shouldn’t be begged to eat or hand-fed. They worry that she’s not happy if she’s simply away from them, lying quietly.

Humans really shouldn’t be at the constant beck and call of a dog. A dog needs a few consistent rules and boundaries; it doesn’t need servants or slaves.

If that dog were a child, she would be showing signs of insecurity for sure. They love Tilly dearly and are up for the self-sacrifice needed for the happiness of their little dog.

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

Labrador Wrecks the Sofa When Home Alone

Charlie doesn't like to be left aloneThey pulled the throw off the back of their leather sofa to reveal a gaping hole full of white stuffing, like snow, and the wooden frame!

This was Charlie’s handiwork over the past four weeks since he arrived from the Blue Cross. He was originally brought over from Ireland at three months old with his mother and has been in kennels for the past nine months – nine important months in the life of a one-year-old adolescent dog.

When Charlie is left alone he may chew the door frame and leave puddles of drool on the floor due to his stress, or he may chew the sofa. Because it doesn’t happen every time I suspect there may be two separate issues here – separation distress and boredom. After all, he has probably never been alone before as he was kennelled with his mother. In a kennel he will not have been taught some basic rules of living in a house – like don’t eat the furniture, nor reshape it into a comfortable nest full of comfy white stuffing!

On one occasion they videod him and he mooched about and lay down – chilled and settled. Possibly an external noise starts him off, or possibly he simply gets bored. In the kennels they were shut down at 4pm and left alone until the morning. I expect anything in the kennel availabe to chew would be fair game to a young dog.  He needs to be caught in the act – set up intentionally perhaps.  He needs to be taught that furniture isn’t for chewing and shown what can be chewed instead, using patience and encouragement.

Separation issues need working on also. He has only been with them for a month and has settled in amazingly well considering his nine months living in rescue kennels. He is obedient, friendly and not over-excitable. He doesn’t jump up and he’s not demanding for attention. He pulls on walks but has probably never been shown otherwise and is another case of correction and force having the opposite effect to what is wanted. Someone said that if you pull a dog back, his brain says forward.

Charlie is brilliant with other dogs. He has no ounce of aggression in his body. A wonderful dog.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
About six weeks later: “Charlie, high and (not low) lows, mostly high points though.  The good points there has been a significant reduction in any new damage we still have to make sure things are put away when we leave, the slobbering has again significantly reduced when we are out and he is more than happy to go to his bed of his own accord in the evenings and the day even when we are here.  Walking is much much better. He is good with other dogs when out and will come back to me without being called until we get close, this gives me an opportunity to decide whether he plays or not.  His recall is the one issue, its getting better and I have to say even when he does go his return is much quicker, the dog walker says he is much calmer and I have to agree.  We don’t overly fuss him but he is more than happy for a play and cuddle when we want. We will stick with the programme and review in a couple of weeks, the lighter evenings will make it easier to train him when we get back from work”. About five weeks after this I was told that Charlie had started to damage the sofa again. This is what happens if the people go back to their old ways – so does the dog. Lack of consistency is very difficult for a dog.
It’s now eleven months since I started working with them, and I have just had this email: ‘Sorry it has been so long since we contacted you but after the last advice we just got stuck in and can’t believe how the time has gone.  Anyway we thought you may like to see a couple of photos of our wonderful HAPPY dog Charlie.  We have overcome the chewing and separation issues, he is settled very happy, his return is still being worked on but improves each week, indeed he does always come back. I am so glad we stuck with him, despite loosing a whole leather settee as he is a wonderful companion and quite a character…….. I took him back to Blue Cross where we got him from and they could not believe the difference.  He is now a confident, happy pooch who is an established family member. Thanks for the advice, we have followed it and the results – well you can see’.


Lurcher Frantic When Owner Out of Sight

Lurcher Bovril is a sweet natured dogLurcher Bovril is a sweet, gentle natured dog with two problems. He has separation distress big time, and he is scared of other dogs.

He is now six years old and came to live with his lady owner about three years ago. Before that he was kept in single a room with lots of other dogs and in a terrible condition, full of parasites. He was, however, never alone. It is puzzling why he should be so scared of other dogs now. Maybe he was bullied.

The family has dwindled from four to one in the past few months as people have left home, and the lady has not been at work for a long while. She and Bovril are inseparable. He sleeps in her bedroom and keeps his eye on her all day. He will cry when she is out of sight even though he knows she is in the house, and he will howl constantly while she is out. Even when the daughters are there to look after him, he paces and cries until the lady gets back. If she goes away he simply doesn’t eat and he is already a very thin dog. The lady has no freedom.

When on walks another dog comes towards them, especially an off-lead dog, Bovril wants to run and hide, but because he has to be on lead all he can do is to wrap himself around the lady’s legs in panic.

Bovril is badly in need of a ‘leader’. A ‘rock’. They have so wanted to compensate for his start in life that it has made him insecure and needy. He makes all his own decisions and there are no boundaries, which I believe with a sensitive dog can lead to insecurity. He chooses where he sleeps, he chooses when he eats, he chooses when people play with him or touch him. Being the ‘decision-maker’ comes with responsibilities that he’s not temperamentally up to. When the lady is out of sight he panics like you would if your three-year-old went missing. Out on walks, trapped on a lead with someone who is not his protector but more his responsibility, he feels very vulnerable when other dogs come their way.

The lady is moving house in a couple of weeks. She is going to start changing things right away, starting with very short indoor partings from Bovril. This will need to be done in tiny increments and it can take a long time. She will eventually need to go back to work. On walks he will no longer be held tight when other dogs are about. He will have a longer lead and when they see another dog the lady will be his ‘rock’ and act appropriately.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.



Separation Panic

Staffie mix


Staffie mix


Hercules, on the left, lives with Shadow. I am told they are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but believe they must be a mix. They are both eleven years old.

Hercules isn’t as strong and brave as his name suggests. He is very nervous, and starts to shake at the slightest thing.

The main problem is the terrible distress he suffers when his owners go out and leave him, and being with Shadow doesn’t help him.

Hercules has always suffered from separation distress. This was compounded by six months in kennels in quarantine when the people came back to this country. A short while ago his lady owner went back to work after maternity leave and for a year the dogs had got used to not being left alone for very long.

Hercules did an amazing amount of damage to the house and furnishings when left in the past; they tried a crate and he broke out, damaging himself and losing teeth, and he also managed to escape from the house which involved the police. So they have converted a shed in the garden into a comfortable and safe kennel. Unfortunately Hercules goes into an utter panic when shut in there in the morning, and cries and howls all day without a break.

The neighbours have been very patient, but the council has now become involved.

This is a very difficult situation. The dogs are eleven years old and set in their ways. If I had come six months ago while the lady was still at home, we would have had the time needed to very gradually work on Hercules being left for very short periods, very frequently, and gradually build it up.

Now we have a tragic situation where Hercules is so stressed his life is almost unbearable at times. His owners also are extremely worried about him. The neighbours understandably have had enough.

We are looking at every behaviour aspect we can along with strategies to show the dogs that as ‘leaders’ the owners should be able to come and go as they wish and can be trusted to return. Within their time constraints they will be working on frequent small separations, starting by shutting doors behind them in the house. In addition to behaviour work, we have also been looking at management. Funnily enough, he is fine if left in the car, so maybe a ‘den’ in the shed would help, an old table with the sides covered perhaps. There are a lot of small ideas which, added together, I sincerely hope will help Hercules.

As a normal rule curing separation issues can take a long time, and in this case there simply isn’t time – either from the harm it must be doing to Hercules, the stress to the owners at a difficult time when the lady has to adjust to going back to work as well as organising the baby, and the impact on the neighbours.

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

Weimerana panics when home alone

weimeranaPoor Chloe is a very stressed eighteen month old Wemerana. She has chronic separation problems and because of the damage she has done she is now crated when her owners are out at work. I go to many dogs and even puppies whose owners, having to go to work, are out for eight or more hours a day, and for some dogs this can be a nightmare. Many people unwittingly take on a dog without thinking that it is unatural for a sociable animal to be left alone for too long.  I can also imagine how stressful it must be to be out at work, worrying about the dog you love being frantic and wondering what you will find when you get home.

Separation anxiety is a difficult problem to solve because it has to be done gradually.

Chloe always was unhappy and maybe bored when left alone. She would sometimes toilet in the house or chew. She used to have the run of the house and her male owner, who was normally home first, never quite knew what damage he was going to find.

She had done hundreds of pounds worth of damage already when one day, three weeks ago, the gentleman arrived home to find total chaos. There was toilet mess downstairs but no sign of Chloe. Upstairs there were clothes and belongings all over the floor, along with more toilet mess. Chloe was cowering in the bathroom, urinating. The gentleman was so angry that he lost his temper and laid into poor Chloe. It was the final straw.

He felt absolutely terrible when he discovered that all the mess wasn’t done by Chloe. They had had a break in and poor Chloe was traumatised. Where before she was distressed at being alone, now she was also terrified of her owner coming back.

To keep their house safe they bought a large crate. I was finally called in because Chloe was damaging herself trying to get out of it. She managed it once, cutting her nose and blood all over the place from her tearing a toe nail and now they have had to padlock the crate to keep her in.

Chloe has other stress-related problems – she is obsessed with eating wood when out, she tail-chases and does a lot of ear shaking and licking herself.  Chloe badly needs help.

They are going to find a dog walker to come each day now and they are going to work very hard at getting Chloe used to being alone in the sure knowledge that they will return. In reducing her stress in all other areas also, she will gradually become a happier dog.  I have spoken to their vet who is also involved and prescribing Zylkene to help tide them over the first few weeks.

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

Two Dogs Called Bracken

Japanese Akita now lives the good life


This week I visited two dogs called Bracken. Both were gorgeous and they were completely different. The first was a beautiful Japanese Akita. He did not have a good start in life.  As a puppy his first family lost interest in him and he was shut outside in the garden by himself for hours on end until they got rid of him. He then went to live with a man who was unwell, and ended up shut in the bathroom day and night. He is now in his third home living with a lovely couple who are determined to give him a good life. Unsurprisingly he has separation anxiety (barking and howling when left alone in home) and due to lack of contact with other dogs, he is fearful and aggressive to dogs when on a walk . In addition to this, children worry him. Bracken will now be learning that his humans are there to look after him and not visa versa, that if they go away they will always come back, and that as leaders they make all the important decisions.


The second Bracken I went to help is a ‘Red’ Labrador, and only seven months old – almost the same age to the day as my Cocker Spaniel puppy, Pickle.  Bracken is becoming a teenager and has started to bully his lady owner. He had always been a bit of a nipper and grabber. The fact he left his litter early did not help, because his siblings would have taught him that if he hurt them they would squeal and stop playing. It is difficult to imagine how upsetting it must be to be scared of your own young dog, the puppy you have fed, walked and loved.  Some dogs more than others need positive leadership and direction, and Bracken is one of them. With my own puppy Pickle I started off the right way by not spoiling him and by giving him fair rules and boundaries in terms that he understands right from the beginning.

Three days have gone by and I have just had a phone call from Bracken’s lady owner. He hasn’t jumped on her, barked at her or bullied her since I went! She says he is a thousand times better, and this is because they now know what to do. Bracken is calmer. It must be a relief for him too not to be in control.

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