Bred for Pulling – and for Sociability

Bred to do a job

Nowadays too many dogs are effectively square pegs in round holes.

When I was young (years and years ago) many women didn’t work. Dogs weren’t left alone for long. There was little traffic outside the bigger towns so dogs had a lot more freedom. Few were bred for anything in particular. As I remember it, there were many more cross-breeds (mongrels).

Bred to pull and for sociabilityToday people choose their pedigree dog too often purely based on what the dog looks like and fashion. Many of these dogs are bred to do a job. Both men and women go out to work. What do we have?

We have a dog – in this case a Malamute – who due to the couple’s change in work circumstances is now left alone for eleven hours a day. However much they try to compensate when they get home, this is simply too much time for a dog, bred to be a sociable creature, to be all by herself.

Husky-type dogs are in fashion at the moment and visually you can see why. Stunning to look at.

Siberian Huskies and Malamutes are bred for pulling heavy things and for endurance.

Another thing that attracts people to Malamutes is that they are noted for being friendly.

So with the dog I went to yesterday we have dog that is bred for being friendly that is left alone for eleven hours a day; a dog that is bred to work with humans for hours, pulling things over many miles, taken for two lead walks a day.

Two-year-old Evie is absolutely delightful. She is also like a fluffly ball of built-up frustration and excitement that bursts out from time to time.

The couple do their very best. Things don’t always turn out as expected, do they. There are many Husky type dogs now in shelters because people just haven’t done the research into what they have taken on. The really lucky ones, to quote Wikipeadia, are used in sledding, also known as mushing, as well as for skijoring, bikejoring, carting, and canicross

Beautiful Evie is walked for an hour at 5.30 am before work (which is testament to how they are doing their very best) and has another walk in the evening when the lady gets home. After a long and busy day, Evie’s young humans are tired.

About a week ago, instead of simply being over-excited when she saw another dog on a walk, her hackles went up and she snarled at it. In quick succession this past week there have been four further incidents which were all noise and show, nothing else. Then a couple of days ago, with terrible timing, an off-lead Staffie they met in an alleyway went for Evie.

Evie retaliated and a fight ensued. The man kicked both dogs.

The young lady was extremely distressed as you can imagine. To make matters worse and as is so often the way, the owner of the out-of-control off-lead dog shouted abuse at the person whose dog was on lead!

BriceEvie2Why did Evie’s behaviour suddenly change a week ago? At my suggestion they have had her checked at the vet and she seems to be 100% healthy. The trigger may be that the young lady was particularly stressed at the time. Evie may well have picked up on her owner’s mood.

They will be looking for a daily dog walker to break up the time that Evie spends alone. They now know how to work on her behaviour with other dogs.  Fortunately it’s only been happening for a week so won’t be too much of a habit yet.

How frustrating must a walk always on lead be, particularly on a Flexilead where there is constant tension, to a dog that has so little ‘happening’? They will now use a loose long line so she can at least feel some freedom. They will work very hard at her recall so perhaps, one day, she will be trusted off lead.

They now have a list of activities to choose from that will give Evie stimulation and a chance to unwind during the evening – things for her to chew and do – training activities including some clicker training. (The young lady who had never used a clicker before was a natural. She totally got it). Clicker will help Evie to use her good brain.

A big thing they will now do their best to stop – is saying NO. I suggested a ‘swear box’, a pound every ‘No’. Poor Evie is constantly being corrected. Now they will be getting her to earn some of her food – giving it to her whenever she does something ‘good’ like watching their cat and before she starts to chase it, like when a dog comes on TV and before she begins to bark at it or if she settles.

Food will mean YES.

Although they will never be able to fully give Evie what she was bred for, they will be able to give her a much more fulfilling life. She will be less frustrated and have more self-control which will inevitability affect her general behaviour with other dogs.

 

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 Evie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. 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, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are 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)

External Control, No Self-Control

Monty, a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mixControlled in a dominant, ‘Alpha’ fashion, Monty gets rebellious and angry – and sometimes just a little scared.

He is a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mix. He is a strong dog both physically and mentally.

Doing his best to have his dog under control, the young male owner has been influenced by Cesar Milan, whose extensive TV coverage gives these methods some sort of authenticity. It’s not really suited to the young man’s own personality, but he’s doing what he can to be the ‘dominant Alpha’. Commands are harsh, the shouted word No is frequent and Monty is physically made to submit at times.

The dog isn’t taught what IS required of him and things are getting worse. He now has bitten the father so badly he ended up in hospital simply because the man was doing his best to ‘show who is boss’. In another situation where he ran off with the towel and the mother tried to get it off him, he bit her badly on the leg.

This is the typical and unnecessary fallout of using force and punishment-based methods. This young dog gets all his attention through doing ‘bad’ things.  He gets no reinforcement from being quiet and calm.

The young  owner isn’t happy with his own methods but just didn’t know what else to do. He is taking his responsibilities as a dog owner seriously but has to keep ramping up his own harshness as the dog becomes immune. It totally disempowers weaker members of the family who are unable to do this.

There is just one thing Monty was taught from the start using rewards and that is to go in his crate. It is now the one thing that he does happily and willingly.

Monty isn’t a vicious dog. He is a wilful and frustrated dog that doesn’t have understandable boundaries. Good behaviour, like lying down quietly, not jumping on people, not barking because people are talking and much more, simply isn’t acknowledged.

In my time there we clicked and treated every ‘good’ thing he did. We endured lots of barking in order to reward him when he stopped. When he lay down we rewarded him. When he sighed and relaxed we rewarded him. When he put his feet on the side we waited till they were on the floor and promptly clicked and rewarded him.

We need to turn things on their head – to get the humans thinking completely differently. To start with they will concentrate on’ accentuating the positive’ as the song says and by not inviting confrontation. I want them to drop the word ‘No’. This is going to take time and I hope everyone will be consistent, patient and resist shouting. Monty must be able to work things out for himself.

As our other strategies gradually fall into place, Monty should become a dog with good self-control with absolutely no need to bite anyone again.

Here is a brilliant clip demonstrating the total confusion and frustration that using ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ can cause.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty, 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 – as has happened in this case. 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).

Fighting Between Two Large Dogs

Two large Huskies live in a tiny room

Dita and Esk

Until a short time ago, Rocky, a large four-year-old Ridgeback-Mastiff cross lived with his lady owner in a very small house, just one room up and one down. Now her friend has moved in with her two beautiful Siberian Huskies, female Dita, 2 and Male Esk, 3.  Previously each lady had lived happily with her own dog/s and no particular problems.

Ridgeback Mastiff cross on lead in the doorway

Rocky

What an extremely tricky and complicated situation this is. The environment, with only two rooms and no garden, is so small and crowded for three large dogs that living closely in harmony is a real challenge. Added to that, male Esk is not good with other dogs and Rocky considers this his home and territory. He now spends most of his time in the bedroom upstairs, and the Huskies well away from him, downstairs. The ladies have to operate what they call an ‘air-lock’ system to take the dogs out which needs to be done regularly because of having no garden.

There have been a couple of massive fights resulting in injury down to the bone to Esk – his shoulder and leg – you can just see some of it, and also to one of the ladies when she tried to break them up and got in the way. The wound on her arm is dreadful. None of these dogs is in any way aggressive to people. The two Huskies that we sat with downstairs were delightful with Dita showing none of her usual fears towards me, and Esk peacefully occupying the only remaining bit of floor space! Later Esk was put on lead and Rocky was brought down on lead, but with Esk eyeballing and growling across the small remaining space between them, then Rocky lunging and barking with poor Dita getting bowled over as she got in between to do her best to split things up, Rocky had to be taken back upstairs.

Add to the unhelpful environment the fact the general atmosphere, due to human health problems, is not always calm and consistent. Because of their humans’ lack of strength, the two Huskies are unable to receive sufficient exercise, stimulation and toilet trips.

The dogs are dearly loved and I know these two ladies will do your very best against the enormous odds, and I will do everything in my power to help them whilst also feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the unavoidable restrictions on the choices of action available.

Some weeks later, a lovely message on facebook from Rocky!: My Mum called in The Dog Lady to help me and my Husky friends with a wide variety of issues she has proven invaluble to us we honestly don’t know how we ever coped without her. £260 for never ending help is by far the best bragain out there, the initial consultation was so thorough and friendly that if it had been any other behavourist those 5 hours would have been covered by the £260 then it would have been another £50 for every hour after that. Others still another £150 an hour since there are 3 of us dogs here!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.