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)

Feels Unsafe. Street Dog. Feral Dog

Feels unsafeNeo is still a street dog – still a street dog although living in a house. The fact he is living so well in a house is tribute to the hard work and research of his young owners.

He was picked up from the streets at a few months old with several siblings who bullied him. They reckoned the mother was more feral dog than street dog. Neo is now two-and-a-half.

The young couple had fostered dogs for a Hong Kong rescue. Neo had had several foster homes and, a nervous young dog, he wasn’t chosen for adoption.

They brought him home with them.

He is restless. He is ready to jump at any sound. When something passes the house it’s like he doesn’t dare bark. He huffs and his hackles rise.

Neo isn’t unfriendly but he doesn’t seem to bond in the way most domestic dogs do. At times he still seems afraid of his own humans. He is no way attention seeking – in fact, the roles are reversed – his young humans try to get his attention!

Outside and on lead he pulls in a kind of panic, darting about at anything that moves or rustles. They have worked hard at trying to get him to walk beside them, but he comes back only to dart forward again.

On high alert from the moment he leaves the house.

Most dogs that are reactive to things are more so when trapped on a lead. Neo will, for a short while anyway, have experienced freedom on the streets. He could keep his distance from things that scared him. He could hide. It’s understandable how he feels unsafe when trapped on a lead and to make it worse, they often use a retractable lead. This will always have tension.

Neo not only feels unsafe, he is also overwhelmed by too much sensory input/overload.

Each and every walk will be piling up the stress.

Most of the exercise that he does get, in the fields, doesn’t really have freedom. They dare not let him off lead (they will now ditch the retractable lead in favour of a loose long line). They do sometimes hire an enclosed field where he can run off lead. Perfect.

To make things even more difficult, Neo isn’t much interested in food at the best of times. He certainly won’t eat when out – he feels unsafe, on high alert, far over his arousal threshold.

Neo feels unsafe.

Feeling safe is the most important thing. Safety key to survival.

An important task now is to build up the value of food by both how they feed Neo and what they feed him. This should get him to eat better and also give them a valuable tool to work with when he’s ready.

Like most people, they worry about giving him sufficient exercise but they can’t stop him pulling. A frantic dog pulls. Only a relaxed dog mooches and sniffs.

Walks to Neo will be of feeling restricted, frustrated – and scared, particularly if they meet another dog, a person on a bike or a horse,  motorbikes and much more. Off lead he’s fine with other dogs. He can avoid them if he so wishes.

I suggest they forget about normal walks for now because conventional lead walks do no good at all to a dog that feels unsafe. They will work on Neo walking near to them on a loose and longish lead – not a retractable. They can follow him about. If the lead is attached to the front of the harness and hangs a bit loose, they will find he naturally follows them – so long as he’s not overwhelmed and feeling unsafe.

So, work starts at home and around the garden.

What can they do? 

Do Nothing!

This is what I suggest. After some loose lead work in the garden, go to the garden gate, open it and stand still for 5 minutes. Give him full length of the lead. It may be tight throughout – but do nothing. They could even take a chair! Eventually, however long it takes, the lead will lose its tension. He may begin to relax a tiny bit. To sniff. He may even show interest in some sprinkled food.

After several sessions of doing no more than this, they should find the lead takes less and less time to go slack.

Then they can take a few steps forward and repeat the process, being ready to retreat if necessary.

These two videos of Suzanne Clothier say it all: Feeling unsafe and Not DOING anything.

Eventually they will be able to help Neo with encountering dogs, men with hats, people on bikes and many more things. This is only possible from a basis where he can feel safe. For this they will need the food – and maybe something he finds fun. He feels too uneasy most of the time to find very much fun at all in anything (apart from playing with a couple of dogs he knows well).

This has taken a year already, and will take a lot longer. Things should now move slowly forward.

4 weeks: I just had to email to tell you I’ve had the most amazing walk with Neo. Distance wise we didn’t go far (about 5 houses down the road back and forth) but he didn’t pull once. I started handing out chicken breast behind my back freely and then moved on to rhythmically dropping it by my side as we walked. He didn’t pull once. He sniffed at a lampost and one hedge but apart from that, we may as well have been in the living room.  He was walking so well beside/ behind me. Also, a car pulled up unexpectedly and two people got out (about 6ft away from us), he looked at them and I handed him lots of chicken and then we just carried on walking away as if nothing had happened. We were out about 20 minutes and this has to be a record!!! I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Nearly 3 weeks: “… this morning as we did our sit in the drive, we’re up to walking in front of next door neighbour’s drive as well as our own doing our loose lead walking and he is staying next to me (mostly) doing my drunk walking and taking treats like it’s no one’s business. We then saw a man with two dogs about 200 yards away crossing the road. Neo saw them and watched them whilst gobbling his chicken from my hand. Success!!!…Thank you so  much, I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere. I feel like I needed your authorisation and knowledge to say that actually he doesn’t need to go for a walk everyday as I would have felt so guilty before. Reading about what dogs actually get out of a walk i.e. not really exercise if they’re on the lead, has taken away any guilt I felt.
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 Neo 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 fear 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)

Romanian Street Dog. Settling In Gently

In the photo the Romanian street dog is in a kill shelter.

Then a lady the from a local rescue saved the Romanian Mioritic Shepherd, in the nick of time. One day before execution.

Some weeks later Balou came to live with my client – into a very different world. Into a house.

No pressure.

From the start, the family have allowed their Romanian street dog, Balou, to find his feet, his big fluffy feet, without pressure.

This is perfect.

Romanian street dogHe has been allowed to decide where to sleep, where to sit, where to toilet (outside fortunately). He went upstairs when he was ready. He has been reluctant to go in the garden though that is now changing.

Balou can find very small things pressurising. For instance, he was just about to pee in the garden and the man spoke to him – probably to encourage him. Balou changed his mind and came straight in. A street dog isn’t used to someone talking to him or watching him while he has a pee!

The dog I saw isn’t the dog that first arrived. They have made great progress. He is slowly showing his true self as his confidence grows.

He is very peaceful, mostly lying about when in the house – so far! This could well change.

The one area where Balou may be under some pressure is going out on walks.

Only the man can walk him because the big dog pulls. 

He pulls?

As a Romanian street dog  he will have had one thing – freedom. Freedom to escape from other dogs. Freedom to escape from anything he doesn’t like. Held tightly on a lead he has no freedom at all and he may be becoming more reactive towards some people and some other dogs.

In this one respect only he’s not being allowed choice.

They will be perfecting loose lead walking technique on a longish lead with their Perfect Fit harness. This can be in the yard and near home until he’s relaxed.

There is simply no need to cover distance. Studies of street dogs show that they never go very far.

The walk is about information, not about exercise. The walk is about the journey.

Follow the dog!

For now they will let him do his own thing. They will let him choose where to go – and contrary to most training – they will follow the dog!

They will now resist using their own strength or holding him forcibly beside them. For Balou to feel confident he needs to feel free.

Covering ground isn’t important for now. When they get to the nearby field, instead of the lead they will put him on a long line – more freedom.

While he settles into the walking routine, they will avoid dogs and people. They will avoid going places they may have no escape route.

There’s no rush.

He just needs time.

This is necessary reading to prepare anyone for acclimatising a rescue dog  from overseas – by my friend Lisa Tenzin-Dolma.

 

Abandonment Anxiety. Separation Anxiety.

I couldn’t believe how calm and confident Sketch was when I arrived. She was interested without being pushy.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the ten-month-old Wirehaired Pointer had arrived with my clients. Previous to that she had been turned out onto the streets with her siblings in Hungary, picked up by a rescue and fostered for a few months. Then transported by plane and car to her new UK home.

So far the only problem that has surfaced is her distress when left alone.

Fear of abandonment.

She and their other dog, a beautiful gentle Vizsla called Doodle, get on great. Sadly, Doodle’s company isn’t what Sketch needs. (Don’t you just love their names!).

Abandonment anxiety when leftSketch needs the permanent presence of a human.

Two weeks ago she wouldn’t let the lady out of her sight at all. Now is fine left alone with the gentleman. Things are improving daily. The other day they had a pre-arranged appointment and a dog walker had her all day. She was walked with various other dogs; the walker treated her as she would her own dog for the day. Sketch was absolutely fine.

This is good news because while they work on the separation or abandonment issues, should the need arise they have cover. They won’t need to leave her alone before she’s ready. The lady works from home.

It is totally understandable that Sketch may be feeling insecure in a very different new world. Her distress at being left with no human about could more accurately be called abandonment anxiety.

She is now fine alone in the night, knowing that her humans are in the house.

Where only two weeks ago she had to have human company during the night, Sketch is now okay shut in the utility room with Doodle.

This is a big step forward. She is beginning to feel more secure now she is realising her humans remain in the house. Fear of abandonment isn’t an issue during the night anymore.

They are now at a stage where she can be left in the utility room for short periods during the day also so long as nobody goes out of the front door.

Their front door is very noisy due to a draft excluder that sticks. The sound of this, now, is Sketch’s main trigger for panic.

Where would it be best to work on leaving her when they both need to go out?

As she now seems okay in the utility room at night time, it seems sensible to build on her increasing acceptance of the utility room for when they go out of the house.

So, to start with, they will work on her being comfortable left for very short and gradually lengthening periods in the utility room during the day, probably with Doodle too.

At the same time, they need to work on any triggers that herald their leaving. At the moment it’s the sound of the front door.

Breaking things down.

To start with they will build on getting her comfortable with being separated briefly from them by now shutting doors on her as they go around the house.

They will build a good routine of the dogs being called happily into the utility room at random times for food. This won’t yet involve their going out of the house.

They will work on getting her to feel good about the main trigger for her panic – the noisy front door opening and closing. They will work on this trigger until it is no longer a problem to her – until they can walk out and back in.

When Sketch is happy with the front door opening and closing, they can pair the two things they have been working on. They can shut in the utility room and add the sound of the front door opening and closing.

Next they can add walking out of the front door, shutting it, opening it and walking straight back in again. Then letting her out of the utility room.

Gradually they will increase the time they are outside. With camera and phone app they can ensure they come back to her before she is agitated. They don’t want her stressing or crying to herald their return – they will come back in while she’s calm and happy.

We can then see what to do next. Maybe other triggers that predict their leaving will arise. Perhaps things will get worse before they get better.

Maybe as she gains a feeling of security in general the problem of abandoment will resolve faster than expected. This is possible. Her humans are very perceptive and sensitive to her needs.

Proud.

They must be so proud when they are out with their two wonderful, well behaved and social 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 Sketch 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 fear 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)

Street Dog to Couch Potato. Still Fearful.

Gracie is a street dog from Hungary. The lady adopted the little black terrier ten months ago and has made terrific progress in transforming the truly terrified little dog into a dog that can cope better.

Coping is the word. She is still fearful of many things in the real world and runs to hide behind the lady at the smallest thing.

Time to start climbing up the second ladder.

She was a street dog form HunagryIt’s like the lady has climbed one long and steep ladder to the point they are now at and doesn’t know how to progress further. I am helping them onto the next ladder towards increasing Gracie’s confidence further and getting her to better accept certain things that make going out on the street a nightmare – like children, sudden sounds, balls and life outside the house in general.

It’s strange that a street dog should find the most scary things she meets out on the street. She is perfectly fine off lead in a field. She has shown her playful and carefree side when playing with her terrier friend and it would now be nice to see more of this.

Gracie is a gorgeous, gentle little dog who settled quickly and lay spread out on her back on the sofa beside the lady. When at home with nobody else about, she is a real couch potato.

The lady needs to wean her away a little from her over-dependence so she’s more able to stand on her own four feet! Being so dependent makes her vulnerable and it gives the lady no freedom. One exercise the lady will do, while Gracie is attached to her heels or under her feet, is to drop food and walk away. When the little dog catches up, repeat and so on – making a game of it.

We will deal with some of her fears, one at a time in an organised fashion, using desensitisation and counter-conditioning.

Put very simply, desensitisation means plenty of exposure to the thing ex street dog Gracie is fearful of but at a comfortable distance and counter-conditioning means then, at that comfortable distance or intensity, adding something she likes (food).

Getting the little street dog used to our ‘real’ world.

Here are a few examples:

Outside her front door in the real world of people, children, traffic and sudden noises. They will take this in easy stages and be very patient. Slowly slowly catchee monkey! They will start by walking around the house until Gracie is happy and relaxed.

Next they will step outside the front door where, surprise surprise, Gracie will find the environment already laced with food! They can stand about. At anything scary, chicken will rain down from the sky (not from the lady – she needs to keep herself out of the picture). At the first sign of Gracie’s tail dropping they will go back in.

They will work on the parasol in the garden that blows in the wind, frightening Gracie.

They will work on children. She’s terrified of children. There are kids next door that they can work on. Children make a noise and ‘chicken rain’ falls. Starting indoors where Gracie feels safe, she will slowly work towards being outside in the garden with children noise from next door.

They will work on footballs. It’s hard not to encounter people kicking balls on their walks and Gracie is terrified of them.

The lady will get a football. Gracie will go into the garden to discover a ball already placed by the fence and she will discover food. When she’s okay with this, she will start going out to find the ball in different places. The lady can then just try putting her foot on it and moving it slightly, dropping food. Gradually build up to rolling it then gently kicking it…….and so on.

The plan must be fluid.

The plan should be fluid and may need to be adjust to keep within Gracie comfort threshold. Sometimes it will take longer and sometimes she will be a surprise and get over a fear quickly.

Her new life is a huge adjustment for a street dog, particularly one that has probably spent her puppy-hood on the streets undoubtedly in the company of other dogs.

They have both done very well so far. Now let’s push it forward a bit.

 

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 Gracie. 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 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).

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)

Two Romanian Street Dogs

Was a Romanian street dog

Roma

The two Romanian Street dogs I have just visited are doing magnificently as are their new custodians, a couple with a large open home, marble floors and furniture!

Everything is different and it’s not surprising that they are on high alert at times. At others they are amazingly chilled. It’s hard to believe they were flown over from Romania only three weeks ago.

Having lived on the streets till eighteen months ago and then all that time since in kennels, it’s little surprise that there are toilet accidents in the house. They have been scared of walking beside traffic which makes sense – freely roaming they would have kept away from a noisy road.

Roma is a Romanian Sheepdog of around five years old and Mocca a Collie mix, a year older. They look surprisingly similar really. The two dogs were best buddies during their time in kennels before coming here, which must have a lot to do with how well they are settling in. That, along with great work which must have been done by kennel staff and now by the couple they live with who have been fielding their issues with great sensitivity and insight.

Out in the garden in particular they are very reactivite to the smallest noise, including sounds inaudible to their humans.

Romanian Street Dog

Mocca

We will be approaching the barking situation from three angles. Firstly to reassure the dogs that they can trust their humans to be responsible for protecting them by how they deal with alarm barking.

Secondly, the best way to see this through is for the couple to call the dogs away from what they are barking at and to themselves, so a lot of recall work is needed until responding to being called is immediate. Thirdly desensitisation, removing the feelings of fear associated with noises.

Paired with the recall work the dogs should eventually accept most of the sounds and learn to go to their humans if they are worried. It needs consistency and persistence which these people certainly have.

Walking is the other area of major concern. Now that they have to walk on lead around the streets, we need to get into the dogs’ heads. How will they be feeling? Are they feeling safe? Comfortable?

Having been free-roaming street dogs, they will have been used to meeting and greeting people and dogs if they so chose and avoiding them if they preferred. They are now physically attached to a human – and by short and rather heavy chain leads. The first thing is the for the dogs to feel as free and relaxed as is possible; then to give them back some sense of choice as to whether they approach people and dogs or not.

They need comfortable equipment – I prefer Perfect Fit harnesses – with lightweight, longish training leads that can be hooked both back and chest. Then both dog and humans will feel safe and be safe.

I suggest they take the dogs back to ‘primary school’ with the walking. Why not start ‘walking school’ near home? Several five or ten minute sessions following the protocols just around the immediate locality, one dog at a time and swapping dogs so the one left behind doesn’t get too anxious. This will advance things a lot quicker than a tense mile-long walk with both dogs together, being forced near other dogs and people, and battling against things they hate like cats!

There is always a legitimate worry about whether the dog gets sufficient exercise, but it has been observed that dogs living free to do their own thing actually cover very little distance. We have to prioritise. Exercise with anxious dogs will do a lot less good than gradually acclimatising them with plenty of manageable and low-stress sessions that are both mental stimulation and fun.

If you are particularly interested in street dogs, why not watch the Living With a Street Dog webinar by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma.

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 Mocca and Roma. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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 dog (see my Get Helppage)

From Street Dogs to Pets

Rocky and Flossie were born on the streets in a small coastal town in BulgaDogs from streets of Kavanaria around two years ago from mothers also born on the streets. For the past year or so they have lived in a house with a couple who have done remarkably well with them, transforming them from street dogs to settled house dogs.

The one respect in which they are, if anything, getting worse is when out on walks and particularly when encountering other dogs.

Outside the house – more their natural habitat one might think – they are finding things harder.

Initially there were no problems with other dogs. When picked up they had no scars or evidence of fighting and they had lived happily and free around the other street dogs. Now when they encounter a dog, Rocky in particular is scared and Flossie is getting worse. Rocky shrinks and lowers himself and as they get nearer he resorts to lunging and barking, not wanting the other dog to get any closer.

This is where humans need to start thinking ‘dog’. It really doesn’t matter whether a destination is reached, it’s about the journey. What does matter is that they mimic as closely as possible what a free dog would do to feel safe. If the dog wants to increase distance then that’s what must happen. It could mean turning around. For now it could mean avoiding narrow passages and taking different routes. It could in some cases mean starting walks with a car journey to somewhere appropriate and safe.

In his past life, unleashed, Rocky could have chosen to turn and go the other way.  Both dogs would have had free choice as to whether to interact with other dogs or not. Now Flossie and Rocky are, necessarily, trapped on the end of leashes even when away from the roads. If let off lead, Rocky will take himself off for an hour or two and Flossie may well go home.

The lady in particular is finding walking the dogs increasingly nerve-wracking. She is afraid Rocky in particular might harm another dog.

There are three elements we discussed to help these two lovely dogs. The first is, when they are out, for them to feel as free and comfortable as possible. From having no restriction at all they are now on the end of retractable leads which, by the very way they work, always have tension. They thankfully wear harnesses but even these could be more comfortable.

The next thing is that the dogs need to be walked separately for a while because each needs full attention and their ways of reacting aren’t the same so they could well be firing one another up.

Thirdly, their reactivity needs to be worked on – carefully. Avoiding dogs altogether will get them nowhere, but even worse is to push them too close, beyond their comfort threshold so that they feel forced to defend themselves. The human at the end of the lead, watching their own dog carefully and increasing distance the instant there is any sign of discomfort or fear will, over time, build up trust. If Rocky knows he’s being ‘listened to’ then he should gradually dare go a bit closer.

Now desensitisation can begin. The appearance of another dog can start to be associated with good things like scattered food – but from a ‘safe’ distance.

When the dogs are in open places they are currently restricted on the end of just ten feet or so of retractable lead. They could be on 15 metre long, loose training lines, able to run, sniff and explore. If an off-lead dog does happen to run up, whilst escape strategies have been discussed, the dog should feel he has some choice. On the end of long lines their recall can really be worked on.

Both dogs are understandably nervous of new things, certain sudden sounds and people who look ‘different’. The best tool to change this is for every single time either Rocky or Flossie encounters something even slightly scary or anxious-making, something good should happen. This can be food or fun – the more rewarding to the dog the better.

Helping the dogs to feel safe is the priority. It’s the most important thing – more important to them than food even. If they don’t feel safe, they won’t be interested in food. Right from puppyhood these two would have been free to follow their instincts in order to keep themselves safe. In their new life, because trapped in effect, they need total trust in their humans to keep them safe instead.

So much of the stuff I normally advise is already in place for these dogs at home including a perfect diet and kind, positive training techniques from caring and knowledgeable people. It will be great when (and it will take as long as it take), the walks become relaxed and enjoyable too.