Defensive Behaviour, Growls When Approached While Resting.

They have done wonderful work with their two beautiful dogs, 18-month-old Cocker Spaniel Pudding and their eight-month-old Australian Shepherd pup.

Both are obedient and polite and were it not for Pudding’s recent ‘defensive behaviour’ problem rearing its ugly head, all would be well.

The young owners are fortunately now nipping this in the bud.

Growling ignored

defensive behaviour when in bedThe incident that started everything was a couple of months ago. Continue reading…

Bites hands. Aggressive Barking. Territorial. Protective.

Frenchie bites handsBetty is another French Bulldog that barks loudly at anyone coming into her house. “Go Away!”

Sometimes she bites hands.

I have just looked back through my more recent stories of French Bulldogs. I am surprised how many cases have been about territorial and protective aggressive behaviours towards people coming into their home.

As a behaviourist, I only visit those Frenchies with problems. Of these problems, most have protectiveness and barking aggressively at people in common. Continue reading…

Go Away. She Barks. She Snaps. Go Away.

Abandoned by travellers.

Olive, now 10, was abandoned by travellers three years ago. My clients had gone to the rescue for a Staffie type dog and came home with the tiny Chichuahua Yorkie mix (the photo makes her look larger than she is). She was cowering in the corner behind her bed, shaking. They just couldn’t leave her there.

She wants people to go awayIt soon was apparent that she was in bad physical shape. She had luxating patellas in both knees which had to be dealt with one at a time, each meaning twelve weeks of restriction.

Olive was, and still is, extremely reactive to people either passing or coming into her house. She will bark fiercely at them. Go Away!

If anyone tries to touch her she snaps at the hand.

The young couple had begun to make some progress with Olive and then disaster struck. The tiny dog was attacked by a Lurcher. This sent her fragile confidence spiralling downhill.

Barking ‘Go Away’ works. People do go.

Olive has learnt, probably throughout most of her life, that if she barks ‘Go Away’ the person usually, eventually, will go away.

She barks from the front window at passing people and dogs to go away. They go. However, when someone actually comes into the house, she’s no longer successful in sending them away. She may have to try harder.

Olive has also learnt that if she snaps ‘Go Away’ at any hand coming towards her, the hand is immediately withdrawn. It’s impossible not to automatically recoil when a dog snaps!

For Olive, snapping is successful.

It is very likely that for the first seven years of her life she has been in some sort of pain. Hands may well have hurt her. She may always recoil from hands. If it keeps being put to the test with people putting their hands out to her with snapping working, it is less likely to improve.

What prompted them to get professional help now is that they are expecting a baby at the end of the year. They need her to be a lot more accepting of people coming to their house.

To achieve this, practising barking Go Away at people through the front window needs to stop. They will block her view.

She barks at children one side of their garden and a talkative man who pops his head over the fence the other side. They will work at getting Olive to feel better about the neighbours. We have a plan.

When people come to the house it would be better if Olive isn’t in a doorway that the person has to walk through, advancing upon her. They will get a gate.

All callers must be trained!

When the person comes in, they will drop a Kong with something tasty in it over the gate to Olive. Even if she ignores it until later, there is a message. A person coming into the house triggers the Kong.

They will explain the importance to the person of not putting their hand out to Olive. People simply can’t resist trying to ‘make friends’! I suggested a reminder with a yellow vest on the dog saying ‘No Hands’.

They can allow Olive to calm down a bit before letting her out. They will have her lead handy. The work will begin.

Now they need helpful friends and family to work with her.

Most walks are an ordeal.

She is often very reluctant to go out of the door for a walk. Our overall aim being to increase Olive’s confidence, I suggest they ‘ask her’ if she would like to be carried. She’s fine when in their arms. So instead of walking her they will from time to time put her down and ask her again if she wants to walk or to be carried. They will see her answer from her body language.

People are often worried that picking a tiny dog up isn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. I feel that, if the dog is scared, it’s essential. Here is a short video from Steve Mann about picking up a little dog: Small Dog Syndrome.

Once in the field Olive loves to run off lead – free. After the attack on her they are very careful. They can’t risk another bad encounter. Fortunately she never goes far and her recall is excellent.

Olive did get used to me after about ten minutes and came up to me. I made it easy for her with my own body language. She took food from my hand. If I moved my hand even a little towards her she suddenly snapped and of course I quickly recoiled.

She was more comfortable on a lead, a support line, almost like responsibility of dealing with me was removed from her, being taught to settle on a rug next to the lady where she feels safe.

Building up Olive’s confidence and associating people with good stuff is the way to go, along with giving her something to do when people come to the house that is incompatible with barking at them – settling on her blanket.

Ten days later – beginning to prepare dear little Olive for the baby.

Five months later and baby has just been brought home: ‘Still early days obviously but so far Olive is being so good about the arrival of baby. She’s not overly interested and is happy to sit calmly besides us holding her. No barking at her which is lovely! !

 

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 Olive. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear or aggression of any kind is involved. 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).

Chihuahua Bit Man on the Mouth

Chihuahua Ant on the left is quite a confident little dog while Dec is restless, on constant alert

Ant and Dec

Here we have Ant and Dec – adorable eighteen-month-old Chihuahua brothers. They have had exactly the same upbringing but their personalities are very different. Ant on the left is quite a confident little dog while Dec is restless, on constant alert, wary of being approached, barks at people he doesn’t know well or dislikes – and has snapped and bitten.

Both little dogs are overweight despite the couple who own them sticking rigidly to the diet regime. This is because they need the help of another couple to look after them so they are not left alone too long, and unfortunately these people, who absolutely adore the dogs, can’t be persuaded not to over-indulge them. The alternative would be leaving the dogs all alone for hours.

Little Dec may bite if removed by the gentleman owner from his lap when asleep and he has bitten a child. He is actually fairly tolerant of them, but when he’s had enough his signals simply are ignored. We need to be looking out for ‘look-aways’, lip-licking and yawning which all show the dog is becoming increasingly uneasy.  Growling will follow. He may then be scolded for giving what is really quite a reasonable warning. By now he is between a rock and a hard place; he has no options left – he snaps.

The poor dog can’t talk ‘human’ and the humans aren’t understanding ‘dog’.

Dec is scared of vehicals and bicycles; air-brakes send his tail between his legs and he would run if he could. He hates the vacuum and the strimmer – and fireworks. Visitors may pick them up which makes Ant pee.

He bit a man on the mouth

The final straw came the other day when the friend bent over Dec as he slept on the sofa (in order to kiss him I believe), and he bit the man’s lip badly.

These little dogs are carried about too much (as chihuahuas often are); they are subjected to big hands reaching out on top of them to touch them and large human faces getting uncomfortably close. They are also allowed to dictate when they get attention and when they are played with. Food for rewards has little value.

Over-feeding, pandering to fussy eating, giving too many un-earned treats and sharing one’s own food, carrying little dogs about, forcing kisses on them and getting them too excited when greeting to the extent that a dog pees may be done in the name of love, but isn’t kind really. The owners themselves are more restrained whilst having some tightening up to do, but they need to be much firmer with the other people who share the care of their dogs.

It is always best if I can have my first meeting with everyone willing to be involved in changing their own behaviour in order to change the dogs’ behaviour. The couple are very keen to understand Ant and Dec’s needs, but fear the other people may be unwilling to listen to my advice or change their over-indulgent ways. Consistency from everyone is so important.

Just see in the photo how eager and attentive they can be if motivated!

It is just after Christmas and I received this email: Hope you had a good Christmas! Just wanted to let you know of some fantastic success we have had with Dec. It’s funny that we only saw small changes until we visited Craig’s parents over the last couple of days…
Normally Dec has been petrified of Craig’s brother…..When we visited we had been using the pen lots when things got too busy and hectic to keep them calm and calmly brought Pluto into the room Craig’s brother was in- seriously was like a miracle moment- no barking, no signs of him being anxious he even went onto his lap and let him stroke him!!!! I think knowing the signs of when they are anxious has really helped us to keep him calm- we can’t always remove him from a situation but just knowing what to look out for really helps!
Normally visiting Craig’s family with the dogs is something I find really stressful but they have been 100% better behaved which just makes everything so much more enjoyable!

Protective Corgi

Corgi is always on dutyBenny is a four-year-old Corgi. He lives in what one might imagine to be a dog paradise. He is free to go wherever he likes in a very large country house. He has a caring family and the company of two other dogs.

Watching the continual lip-licking, the yawning and the panting, it’s obvious that Benny is a stressed dog rather than one revelling in a wonderful life. He is on guard duty alert much of the time, and ready to rush to protect his owners at the drop of a hat, particularly his female humans. If a man suddenly walks in the front door Benny may appear from nowhere and go for his legs, even if he has met him before. He hates the postman. If someone walks towards his owner, or makes arm movements that Benny could interpret as a threat, again he will spring into action. It’s always legs he goes for, probably due to his own lack if height, and fortunately he’s not yet done serious injury.

I believe Benny will become a much more relaxed dog if he is given some boundaries – physical in particular. At present there are no limits to where he can go. If the lady of the house disappears behind a door, he barks and cries. If someone comes to the front door, he is in effect the first line of defense – there, on guard. It’s best if the owners avoid having Benny in front of them for now when someone approaches. After all, a dog protecting a pack member will always get in between her and the threat.

How can a smallish dog possibly look after so many people and protect such a large environment? Benny is doing his level best. No wonder he is stressed.

It is the leader/head of the family’s job to be the protector and the decision maker. If from the start he is accustomed to boundaries and sometimes being shut behind doors, a dog is far happier in a ‘den’ in a corner than rattling around loose in a large house, especially if he can rest secure in the knowledge that protection duty is not his responsibility. Bennie doesn’t actually spend much time outside in the large grounds because he dare not let his lady owner out of his sight. He follows her everywhere and cries if a door is shut on him. With patient work, he should eventually be able to let her come and go as she likes – and trust her to look after herself.

Putting in place a few rules and boundaries, slowly getting him used to being more independent in so far as demonstrating through leadership that the humans are there to look after him and not vice versa,  should make him a much more chilled dog.

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

A Very Good Dog

Lurcher Berkley is settling well into his new home Berkley is a brindled lurcher. He had been in rescue kennels for seven months before his new owners found him three weeks ago. Seven months! I cannot understand why nobody wanted him. He is beautiful, confident, friendly; he is calm – and he has been well trained by someone.

Berkely confidently knows what he wants. His new owners are being a little too obliging and I could see that he is beginning to call all the shots. I was called out because they want to get things right, and because they are worried about his reaction to other dogs when they get too near and are too boisterous, pushy or impolite. Berkely is quite happy to ignore them altogether and he makes this quite clear.  Because, if they push it, he snaps at them and growls, his new ownerLurcherBerkley11s are concerned he may bite one. They hold his lead tight. He is never yet off lead, and the dogs in question are all off lead dogs, so Berkley is at a disadvantage. He can’t escape and he can’t after all say ‘Go away, I don’t want you sniffing my bum!’ The owners need to be in control and save Berkley from awkward situations rather than push him into them. If he were free I am sure he could deal with dogs himself without a fight. This isn’t aggression. Understandablly they don’t yet dare let him off lead yet, so there is work to be done!

We had a very good evening looking at things from Berkley’s perspective so they could see if he continues to make all the decisions  – when to be touched, when to be walked, when to play and when to stop playing, where to walk when they are out and so on, they could actually spoil a very sound dog.

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