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.
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.
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.