The Puppy Has Now Arrived!

Coco is becoming a bit more used to the puppy behind his barrier

Coco

I do love the variety in my job. I wrote about Coco (left) four weeks ago and about preparing him for the arrival of their new puppy: http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=15370.

Coco is a ten-year-old Chocolate Labrador who really isn’t good with other dogs. They even had to abandon a camping holiday a while ago because of Coco’s behaviour towards other dogs on the site! They called me out so that they could not only prepare him in the best way possible for a puppy, but also to make sure they start their new puppy off right and that he, unlike Coco, is well socialised with dogs and people from the start.

They have a chart and are ticking off Charlie’s encounters as they build up. They have now had him for about 6 days and he has met about twelve different people, so they are doing well.

Chocolate Labrador Puppy Charlie

Charlie

After a scary start on introducing Charlie – I had hoped to be there but it didn’t work out – although he avoids him, Coco is becoming a bit more used to him behind his barrier. He no longer growls and hackles. Each time they feed Charlie they also feed Coco – one each side of the gate. They have actually done very well in just six days.

The gentleman is very anxious and I’m sure Coco will be picking up on this.  There is just a little danger that they are overdoing the ‘being nice to Coco’ so that they are on his case all the time.  They both need to chill!

With the couple sitting on the sofa and Coco on a loose lead, I went and fetched the puppy and popped a lead on him also. I walked Charlie about at an acceptable distance for Coco (watching him) and every time Coco looked at Charlie I threw him a treat which he happily ate, something he wouldn’t have done had he been particularly worried. If it looked at all like there was any stillness or staring, I got his attention by calling his name before throwing the treat.  At one point they were within a couple of feet of one another. We then called it a day. Little and often will progress things fastest.

I’m sure if the people can relax and play safe by keeping both dogs on lead or separate sides of the gate, it will be no time at all before they will be freely together – under supervision. Coco is too old now to appreciate being jumped on and climbed over. He was very close to their older dog that died a short while ago, so I’m sure he will also be fine with Charlie if he’s not pushed or over-fussed.

Owner Control Versus Self-Control

Ben, a magnificent Northern Inuit age 15 monthsThis is Ben, a magnificent Northern Inuit age 15 months. He lives with another Inuit and two elderly black Labradors.

Ben is a typical adolescent and he is pushing boundaries. Like a teenager, he sometimes resists being told what to do – especially by the lady. There is some conflict in the way the dogs are ‘brought up’. The male owner is a strict disciplinarian and his rules are obeyed. The lady is softer.

It was a treat to be in the house with such well-mannered dogs. They are very well trained where commands are concerned, I would say possibly somewhat over-regulated. They have to jump through what I consider are unnecessary hoops before they get their food, for instance. A dog given too many commands doesn’t have a chance to work out for himself what he should be doing. There may be too much reliance upon the owners controlling the dogs,  and not the dogs controlling themselves.

A difficulty with this is that the dog learns to respect the firm disciplinarian at the expense of the weaker person, so when she the tries to control the adolescent Ben he revolts. And then what can she do?

I was called out because Ben had freaked out a training class with the lady. He was obviously severely stressed already by various things happening in the class and decided that he wasn’t going to do what she wanted. He jumped at her quite aggressively and grabbed her arms, bruising her. She was devastated and in tears. The trainer resorted to putting a choke chain on him. The reason for his going to class in the first place was to socialise him with other dogs, but being told ‘Leave It’  harshly whenever he went to sniff another dog will not have been helping him to learn natural, calm ways of encountering other dogs.

I suggested they abandon the class altogether. It is simply too stressful and counterproductive, and is damaging Ben’s relationship with the lady. He knows all the commands he could ever need. I don’t say this of all classes but they need to be chosen carefully, and any advocating choke chains (pain) I would run a mile from.

The gentleman could quite happily carry on with the dogs as he is, but not the lady, so they will both need to do things a bit differently so that the dogs don’t get mixed messages. They need the chance to learn self-control.

Ben can learn to approach other dogs without fear or aggression if given time and support to work it out for himself, rather than being shouted at – ‘No’ and ‘Leave It’, forced into situations for which he’s not ready, or distracted with treats which teaches him nothing. Rewarding him with treats for being calm when looking at another dog is a different matter.

Training is one thing; in many ways Leadership is another. To behave like a ‘dog’ leader doesn’t require commands. Dogs don’t talk, after all.

Five weeks after my visit, this email: “Last night there were no dogs around so I let him off for a while. Then out of the woods comes a White Labrador and Ben races over to him. Oh god I think here we go especially when i realised it was a male showing dominance but no they greeted each other nicely, no growling, no noise, no squaring up……..They played!!!! They played really nicely… Ben didnt even react when the lab tried to hump his head. I can’t tell you what joy that gave me. I know we’ve got a long way to go but it was wonderful to see him let down his guard and be a young dog for a while. I recognise that it will probably take months to get Ben to the point I want him to be at; I would like to be able to walk down the road and pass a dog on the other side without incident – that will be a major milestone for me. It’ll be a while yet but we feel we’re on the right path”.
We’re both using the whistle and cheese which works brilliantly. Yesterday I couldn’t see him, looking round I realised it was because he was walking with his nose right at the back of my knee – that made me happy. I’m certainly more confident and I’m discovering more about Ben’s triggers.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.