Jumping Up on People. Barking at Other Dogs.

Yesterday I visited a young couple with three dogs. All three were rescued from Bosnia and have come here from Italy where the couple used to live. One had been dumped from a car and the other two most likely had been strays on the streets.

Before I arrived and based on previous experience, I had anticipated meeting three dogs with a mixture of fear issues. Problems with living in a small house and feeling threatened by the proximity of someone they don’t know.

How wrong I was!

These young people must have the magic touch.

They rescued four-year-old Staffie Luna first. She is extremely friendly, too much so in a way. She did a lot of jumping up at me and jumping on me when I sat down.

Too much jumping up

Luna and Thor

The next dog they took in was Thor, a lovely fluffy dog who looks a bit like a Poodle mixed with a Schnauzer or Tibetan Terrier. He, too, is four. Like Luna he is friendly and well adjusted in the house, with some jumping up and rather too much pawing for attention.

Finally they adopted Zeus eighteen months ago. Zeus is a four-year-old Husky. He had been dropped from a moving car and is unsurprisingly now terrified of being in the car.

When he first arrived he was more or less shut down. He kept well away from his new owners. Now he’s one of the most chilled dogs I have met.

Zeus’ only has problems when they encounter other dogs when out. 

Jumping and pestering

The couple wants help on two fronts. They want to be able to have friends round without the dogs jumping all over them – to be able to talk and eat with them in peace. They also need all three dogs to be better when encountering other dogs on walks.

We started with the jumping up and general pestering. The couple themselves don’t mind it, but if they don’t want them jumping and pestering friends, then manners must start with themselves.

Zeus

So far it’s all been about STOPPING the dogs jumping up and pestering.

They even had someone from Barkbusters who advocated water bombs for their reactivity to dogs and for jumping up. Did it work? No.

It is unacceptable and unethical to punish dogs for being friendly or for being scared. It is particularly risky to consider frightening dogs from their background. Thankfully they don’t seem to have suffered and it’s not something their savvy owners were willing to do.

We are now concentrating on teaching the dogs what IS wanted. There must be nothing to be gained from unwanted behaviour and all to be gained from desired behaviour. We used clicker. We used food and we used the attention the dog was seeking but only with feet on the floor and not while pestering and pawing.

The couple should also compensate the dogs by initiating attention when they are calm thus further reinforcing what they want.

Hello face to face.

These lovely dogs are only jumping up because they are so friendly which is lovely really. They like to say hello face to face. They can still do so if people lower themselves.

Dog-encounters on walks are a bit more complicated. Each dog has different needs and problems which include pulling on lead and which we will take separately. I haven’t included this in my story, but Luna, Thor and Zeus would benefit from some freedom off lead from time to time.

I suggest they find a dog-safe field that is rented out by the hour so the dogs can sometimes run free. 

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 these lovely dogs because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you 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. 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)

Shaking With Fear

As I sat down I glanced at Adi. He was shaking with fear.

Romanian rescue dog shaking with fear

Adi was shaking with fear

The dog was shaking with fear just because I had walked into the room where he lay.

Usually he runs out of the room and hides. Possibly my asking the man to walk into the room ahead of me may have helped just a little as did the fact I didn’t even let him see me look at him. I moved slowly and I left him be.

The couple doesn’t know the eight-year-old Adi’s history, apart from his being a Romanian rescue. They have had him for a year now. It took him some weeks to get used to them and they are still the only people he feels comfortable with. He didn’t move the whole time I was there – nearly three hours, and he was shaking on and off.

During this year Adi hasn’t been anywhere at all but their bungalow and small garden. They did try but it freaked him out.

He has never even been to the vet (who I shall be phoning).

A while ago they did manage to get a collar onto him. It shows how far they have come with their caring and understanding treatment that he had began to allow the man to groom him. Unfortunately, he then tried to attach a lead while he was brushing which sent Adi running and that now has now ‘infected’ the grooming with fear.

Their aim in calling me is simply to be able to take a willing and happy Adi out. It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it They had reckoned with how long this may take.

It’s a strange relationship they have with their dog. They do all they know to help him but they get little back. They feed him on the very best food available. As you can see he has luxuriously comfortable bed. Apart from wandering around the garden and eating his meals he does nothing much. He lies around. He’s not interested in playing though will come over from time to time for a short fuss. He has a little burst of energy first thing in the morning when he runs from room to room, probably when he has had the night to de-stress, but that is all.

How can they spice up his life a little without stressing or scaring him?

They dearly want to take him out and about with them as they did their other dogs.

.

How will they be able to get a lead on him and get him out of the house?

Something needs to be done about his extreme fear of people. He is a very quiet dog. I suspect he doesn’t dare to bark and his way of keeping safe is to lie low.

The man erected a strip of trellis in the garden for him hoping he would want to see through to the world outside. They can accompany him to the trellis at busier times of day and associate everything that happens beyond it with food, to actively de-sensitise him and acclimatise him so he can eventually, when he has accepted harness and lead, pass through the trellis.

Each time, at the trellis, he sees a passing car they will give him food; any person walking past – give him food; hearing a dog bark – give him food; a slamming door – food. Perhaps sprinkle it on the ground. They may later be able to move the trellis forward and continue the work nearer to the road.

Meanwhile, they need a harness because they must keep away from his neck. The collar has already been ‘infected’ when the lead was attached and very likely he was originally caught with a catch-pole accounting for his terror of humans. A soft and comfortable Perfect Fit harness is the answer. They then have the option of attaching the lead to the top of his back or at his chest – or both – and well away from his neck.

Adi won’t know what the harness is so they will build on that. I have broken the process down into tiny increments and devised a step-by-step plan where they spend several days on each step, beginning by leaving the harness in various corners of the house with food hidden in it for him to discover. Nobody should be seen to hold it so he gets no suspicion that it might be a trap.

Adi stopped shaking with fear and lifted his head

Adi stopped shaking but was very still

Through various other steps the harness can eventually be put down with his food while he eats. This will lead, through more stages, to when he comes for a fuss, touching or stroking him with the harness whilst treating him. Bit by bit the harness can be rested briefly on top of him, then just his nose through it for food.

In case he doesn’t like the sound of the clips, they can be repeatedly done up and undone again, initially at a distance, while the other person gives him food.

It is a long-winded confidence-building process. We may use a clicker at later date but he was far too scared of me and all he felt safe doing was to lie still.

Once the harness is on, the process needs to be repeated with the lead.

I hope that after a couple of months of hard work Adi will be wearing the harness and accepting the lead. It could take a lot longer. He may also be relaxed with things just immediately outside his gate.

Getting to this point will be a big achievement. We can then walk him on lead around the house and the garden. Then take a step through the trellis, stand still and see what happens, giving him full length of the lead and the option to run back in.

Now the outside world!

Apart from knowing he’s terrified of people to the extent that he shakes, they don’t know how he is with day-to-day things like other dogs, wheelie bins, bikes, traffic….and cats.

There will be no normal ‘going for a walk’ for a long while, I fear.

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 Adi. I don’t go into detail. 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 fear is 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 Get Help page)

Roaming Free, Now on Lead

Elderly rescue dog

Charlie

Two little dogs were strays on the streets in Romania

Bonnie and Elma

Two of these little dogs had been fending for themselves on the streets of Romania.

The two girls, black and white Bonnie with little terrier Elma (both on the right) were probably abandoned pets.

The lady is an experienced dog owner – particularly with rescue dogs. She took on much older Charlie, left, seven months ago and the other two only three months later.

The three are extraordinarily well-adjusted in the circumstances. The lady has worked hard.

Sometimes it’s hard to see one’s own situation clearly and she needs some help to take things to the next stage.

Bonnie is very reactive to other dogs. With her history of roaming free on the streets and considering how quickly she fitted in with the other two dogs, I strongly suspect her reactivity has been getting worse because she is on lead.

She’s not free any more.

Nor can she be let off lead. Shortly after she arrived she disappeared for two hours.

The solution to this is largely about groundwork. The work doesn’t simply start when out on walks and they meet a dog. Fundamental is getting her full attention at home at the sound of her name along with getting instant recall when she is called around house and garden. These things need to become an automatic response.

She needs to learn how to walk nicely. Only then will the lady be ready to work on other dogs, finding the threshold distance where she still feels safe – and building up her confidence. She can help Bonnie to feel more free by making sure the lead is always slack. This is a time-consuming business and has to be taken slowly.

Over time Bonnie should begin to associate other dogs with nice stuff, instead of fear and feeling trapped on lead with a tense human holding it tight with resulting discomfort to her neck.

Fortunately neither of the other two dogs has these problems, so the lady will work on Bonnie by herself until gradually doubling her up with one of the others and then all three together.

Recall will be worked at for as long as it takes before Bonnie is ever let off lead again.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Charlie, Bonnie and Elma, 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).

Very Protective Dog

Daschund Max is on guard dutyUnfortunately Max has recently bitten several people including two young children and two postmen.

Max, age two, was found as a stray and they understandably absolutely adore their little dog.

A few months ago they moved house to a busier street, and now Max is doing a lot more barking. He is getting a lot more worked up. He has taken it upon himself to be on guard duty big time. Any noise sends him flying around the house barking. He barks at passers by when out in the garden. Two different postmen were bitten when they entered ‘Max’s’ garden and put out a hand towards him – but outside his own territory one of these same men is like his best friend. At home he is an extremely protective dog. Outside his own house and garden he is a different dog, and very friendly with other dogs too.

Not only is Max becoming increasingly protective of the house, he is very protective of the lady and most of his growling and biting has happened in her presence. When I sat down Max stood facing me on the lady’s lap, barking while she ‘comforted’ him. I asked her to put him straight on the floor. She should be nice to him when he’s quiet and pop him on the floor when he barks.

Max also growls at the gentleman when he’s on the lady’s lap. He growls at them in their own bed at night – pMax is the centre of the lady's universearticularly at the man. I have nothing against dogs sleeping with people if that is what the people really like, but certainly not if the dog is taking posession of the bed and growling if they dare move!

The lady in particular behaves like Max is the centre of her universe.  She touches him and attends to him constantly. The moment she gets home from work, after a rapturous welcome, although he has had the company of the gentleman for most of the day, she is cuddling and playing with him for an hour before doing anything else. They are doing his bidding all evening until he settles.  All this adoration can, in my mind, be quite hard for a dog. As time goes by Max is increasingly taking on the role of protector and decision-maker.  This is a big burden for a dog and one that should be shouldered by his humans.

Gradually Max’s stress levels should reduce as the barking gets less because the people will now deal with it appropriately. They are dedicated to helping him. As a more relaxed dog he should be more tolerant  – though all people should respect his dislike of outstretched hands and his people must take responsibility for this, even using a soft muzzle when children visit so that everyone can relax. The rule must always be Safety First.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max, 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 – particularly where issues involved aggression of any kind. 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).

 

Settling Into His New Home

Maybe STaffie Mastiff mix will open up a bit more during the next two weeks as he settles in. Other things may surface.Baxter had been found as a stray. He had been in kennels for one week and then a foster home for a few days, during which time another dog had attacked him – he bears the scars.

This doesn’t seem to have caused him to bear a grudge against other dogs. He has a lovely gentle nature. I feel someone has loved him sometime in the past.

Baxter is a somewhat camera-shy one-year-old Staffie Mastiff cross and the couple have had him for just under one week. They are fans of Victoria Stilwell (I am one of her UK trainers) and want to start their relationship off on the right foot making sure they are using positive methods similar to Victoria’s.

It was a very enjoyable evening, and a red-letter day for me – the lovely couple are my 2,000th clients! His look is saying 'Should I be here?'.

Underneath a quiet exterior I could read some signs of slight unease – it’s like he’s being careful. In the picture he has crept onto my coat beside me, and his look is saying ‘Should I be here?’. He is sussing out his new home.

He is growing increasingly anxious if the man goes out of the room, particularly if the dog knows he is still about somewhere. He whines the whole time the man is absent. If the couple goes out together and they creep back later to take a look, they find Baxter happily asleep on the sofa. Before this gets any worse the gentleman needs to take measures so that Baxter doesn’t grow too attached, including shutting doors behind him regularly. Instead of the persistent whining when he goes out driving the poor lady mad, she should watch for and acknowledge every time he stops and briefly settles with some sort of positive reinforcement.

By and large he has very few problems. Already, by using the right methods, he’s stopped pulling on lead.  He’s fine with other dogs. He is polite around food and very calm for an adolescent dog. He has proved himself something of a Houdini and they need to work hard on his recall if he’s is to run free.

Maybe he will open up a bit more during the next two weeks as he settles in. Other things may surface.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Baxter, 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).

Jack Russell With Just a Few Common Issues

To look at his expression you wouldn't think he had been flying all over me when I first sat downWhat a dear little dog! Finn is about one year old and was found as a stray on the streets of Dublin. Over the past six months the couple have come along way in building up his confidence.

To look at his expression you wouldn’t think he had been flying all over me when I first sat down, and then lay down on my own knee. He’s a very friendly little dog, whilst from time to time also showing little signs of anxiety when he looked at me – lip licking and yawning in particular.

The front door of their cottage sitting room opens straight onto the road and Finn is very alert to sounds outside the front. He is worried and he growls and barks. He is also fearful of some dogs when out along with things that are unexpected or different. No more so than many dogs though.

There are various little issues to be worked on. He was very wary of being touched on the back of his neck and they wonder whether he had at some stage been ‘scruffed’ or harshly disciplined. He is a lot better now although he still doesn’t like things put over his head, so he needs help with that. We have strategies for the barking at things outside and the flying all over people and chairs (which has been encouraged by a game they play).

Use of mouthing and teeth has also been actively encouraged by the gentleman playing hand games. Finn has unintentionally nipped a child’s hand when jumping to get something she was holding, so he needs to learn to be very careful.Finn is quite restrained for an adolescent Jack Russell with an uncertain past

No more games involving chasing and grabbing hands. ‘Non contact sports’ are a lot better. They do some very inventive hide and search games already and I have given them a few more ideas.

The lady feels all the dogs they meet on walks are calm and sociable, and feels Finn is in some way unusual. He is in fact very usual.  With gradual work to continue building up his confidence he will be fine I’m sure. Every dog will have his own little individual quirks and it’s good to relax a little and appreciate what we do have.

Finn so wants to please, and I would say he is actually quite restrained for an adolescent Jack Russell with an uncertain past. With Finn they have a little gem.

Stray Border Collie from Ireland

Border Collie Rex lying under a chairRex, a Border Collie found as a stray in Ireland a couple of years ago, shipped to Wood Green Animal Shelter and now four years old, is a dog you would be proud to have. He lives with a more elderly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is now slowing down.

The dogs belong to a lady and her two daughters who share their care.  At home there are no problems with the dogs, but it’s outside that Rex is causing a few problems. He has some very good points – he is good with most other dogs – if sometimes feeling a bit trapped when on lead, and he responds quite well to a whistle.

A few months ago the poor lady dislocated her shoulder with Rex’ lunging and circling, and she is still receiving treatment. He is a big chunky dog for a Border Collie – he may be mixed with something else. The other day she was pulled over by him as he suddenly crossed in front of her to check out a couple of dogs. The lady has tried all sorts of equipment and methods, all of which rely upon ‘control’ and ‘correction’ to stop him pulling. We need to go back to basics and get him wanting not to pull, to realise how nice walks are when walking like there is no lead at all. We need to change Rex’ mind-set, and that of his humans.

Because of the damaged shoulder (caused by Rex), the lady has to have a special seat belt which costs £200. What has Rex now done? When left in the car he has eaten through two of them!

We need to look at ways to manage this situation so it simply can’t happen again, whilst stopping him feeling that he needs to do it. I think we have got to the bottom of why it happens. If he were calm with no stress and no distress, he would not want do it.

In order to get things right outside, we also need to make sure all the interaction and dog parenting/leadership at home is in place in order to set firm foundations, otherwise it’s like the proverbial ‘house built on sand’.

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

Agitated Akita

The Akita is a restless dogKyra is a two year old Akita who a year ago was picked up as a very skinny stray.

Her conscientious owners started with a problem not created by themselves, and Kyra has come a long way. She is extremely restless and in all the time I was there she only lay down and relaxed properly for a couple of minutes . Because of her behaviour on lead and with other dogs, Kyra is now seldom walked. Because she chews her bed and wrecks her toys, she has no bed and little to occupy herself. She lives with a caring young couple and their three beautiful very small children that are a testament to their parenting skills.

Although she pulls badly on lead and is unpredicatable with other dogs, Kyra is very good with people, if over-excited and jumping up. She is fine with the children too. She seems most excited around the male owner and also a little scared of him. She goads him until he gets cross; she is obedient for him if he is sufficiently forceful. He indulges in hands on, exciting play believing that this is the kind of stimulation she needs to compensate for lack of walks, but to a dog like Kyra I liken this sort of thing to going on the Big Dipper – exciting and terrifying at the same time. When he walks towards her, if he gives her eye contact her she may wee.  If she wees she may be scolded. The lady is less forceful and so Kyra takes less notice of what she asks her to do. Kyra is very confused – and so are they, because they have been doing their very best as they see it.

Their ‘dog parenting’ would work a lot better if they used the same sort of approach as they do with their children! This is a good example of humans giving what they believe to be leadership and it being lost on the confused dog.

They need to do everything they possibly can to reduce Kyra’s stress levels, and in order for this to happen she needs to have more happening in her life. She certainly does need stimulation, but not the kind that gets her hyped up. She needs short controlled sessions of things that encourage her to use her brain and only when she is calm. Because she is no longer walked at all, this actually will help my plan, because I want them to take it back to basics and start again, just as they would a puppy. Where someone who walks their dog for two hours a day might be horrified if I suggesed a few days of just several five-minute jaunts and no ‘proper walk’, to Kyra even one five minute session would be a bonus.

The bottom line here is that the methods they are using to give Kyra leadership so she can relax, respect and trust them, to get her to walk nicely and to calm down in general, are not working – so we need to do something completely different!

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

Change of Personality Outside

Cleo looks like a long legged StaffirThe photo doesn’t show how beautiful Cleo is, with her expressive ears and shiny brown coat. She is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Labrador cross – but looks like a leggy Staffie.

Cleo has lived with her new owners for just three weeks and they are at least her third home. She is eight years old. At home she is the model dog. They are out all day at work and Cleo takes this in her stride. She is polite around food, she doesn’t bark excessively. She is friendly and confident, maybe a little aloof and independent. Possibly the whole of her real character hasn’t yet had time to surface.

Before walks she is calm and cooperative.

But, once the door opens and she is outside, she is almost uncontrollable. She becomes a law unto herself.

Previously Cleo had been a stray. Clearly she had to find her own food by hunting and scavenging.  She has a strong prey drive. She became very self-sufficient. As a stray she could go where she liked, she could chase what she liked and she could stop to rest when she liked. She had to look out for trouble in order to protect herself.

This then is the dog that Cleo becomes as soon as she is out of the house. It is no surprise that she freelances. She pulls and she puts the brakes on, she jumps up at walls and gates and would leap over if she could, she wants to run to other dogs. It is as though her owners don’t exist apart from their being dead-weight on the end of her lead that she has to drag along behind her.

She is a strong dog and her pulling on lead is such a problem that they have resorted to a Halti so they can physically prevent poor Cleo from pulling so much, but it is like putting a plaster on a dirty wound. It doesn’t address the problem itself.

And then there are CATS! If Cleo sees a cat she trembles and probably wants to kill it. I’m not sure whether this is because she sees cats as a threat or prey, or both. Around Cleo’s new home there are a lot of cats!

So we are working at all aspects of Cleo’s life so that her new owners become more relevant to her so that she sees them as the decision makers, so that eventually she walks nicely beside them because she wants to, not because she is forced to – and to learn that cats are not her responsibility to deal with for whatever reason!

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