Redirects Frustration. Can’t Reach Cat, Turns on Owner.

Redirects frustration

Letting sleeping dogs lie

Lurcher Rufus is a wonderful dog whose only problems are as a result of over-arousal. He then redirects frustration, using his teeth.

The two-year-old had been picked up, abandoned, eight months ago and has settled into his new life beautifully.

A lovely, friendly dog, he’s confident and curious. Rufus can get very excited when he sees people. He was unusually calm when I arrived – but I didn’t fire him up! He sniffed me thoroughly and gave me a little ‘kiss’ in the ear. I began to respond with some attention and he quickly became excited. I felt his mouth on my hand.

His lady and gentleman are finding it hard to stop him mouthing their hands and their arms – sometimes quite roughly. The more aroused he becomes, the rougher he gets.

Rufus redirects frustration using his teeth.

If he’s not getting attention, he will demand it using his mouth. If he is thwarted or ignored, he redirects frustration using his teeth.

The biggest problem however is cats! Their house is surrounded by cats that seem hell-bent on winding up Rufus. He may be controllable past one or two, but by the time he’s encountered the third that may be waiting in his drive as they arrive back home from a walk, his chase instinct is in full gear.

The other day when he lunged at a cat, his lady owner held on as tightly as she could. Rufus’ head swung round and she received a nasty bite on her arm.

Holding on tightly with a harness that tightens as he pulls may save the day at the time, but isn’t a way to change the behaviour of a dog that redirects frustration onto you. The frustration itself has to be addressed and this takes time. The people themselves must be able to get and hold their dog’s attention, taking action before he gets anywhere near this state of arousal.

This is easy to say, but not always so easy to put into practice.

Better equipment will give better control.

The first thing they will do is to get a harness where a longer lead can hook both front and back. They will then have more control in emergency and the dog will be more comfortable. Then they should keep those walks near home where they may encounter cats very short indeed to avoid ‘trigger stacking’. This is where his stress and excitement builds up until he explodes and he redirects frustration onto the person holding the short lead.

Instead of being held tight, the dog actually needs to feel free while they work on their own relevance and teaching him behaviours that are incompatible with lunging at cats.

This work will start at home. There should be no more reinforcement of any kind for the rather excessive and uncomfortable mouthing which is quite obviously a habit and his default when aroused. You could say that he’s ‘mouth happy’. The more stressed he becomes, the harder the grip with his teeth. I don’t like to call this a bite.

When it happens they need to be immediate. They recognise the signs. Even as his mouth approaches they must withdraw themselves and look away. No more scolding or ‘No’. Currently when they may leave their hand in his mouth before removing it. They need to change their own habits and respond a lot more promptly.

It must be hard being a dog, having no hands, only mouth and teeth!

It looks like Rufus generates much of his attention by mouthing or bringing toys to throw or tug. The man has a nasty bite on his thumb he received while playing with him – it was a mistake. Rufus has not learnt to be careful with his teeth. From now onwards all play instantly stops if teeth or even open mouth are felt.

The tuggy game played properly is a great way to teach this.

Just as important is to regularly offer him plenty of interaction when he’s calm. Already his humans they have started hunting nose-games games with him.

Although he has bitten a few times, I would never label Rufus an ‘aggressive dog‘. A dog that redirects frustration is a dog that is unfulfilled. In Rufus’ case, when out, it’s his drive to chase that’s unfulfilled.

They will get a long line so Rufus can have a degree of freedom when they take him by car to more interesting places where he can sniff and explore. Chase and recall can be worked on too. Always restrained on a short lead must in itself be frustrating for him.

They have strategies now to help Rufus to calm himself down and they know how to handle the mouthing. Communication with humans must be frustrating for a dog too – with no hands and with no language that humans seem able to understand!

He must gradually learn that it’s times he’s not using his mouth that things happen. It’s not always a good idea to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ if there is nothing in it for them!

Like charity, impulse control starts at home. Over time and with work, they should be able to manage the cat situation too.

Ten days have gone by, during which time poor Rufus was attacked by another dog and has two sizeable gashes in his side. Despite this, great progress already: Rufus seems much more relaxed in his new harness and I am gaining confidence with it too. We went to Milton Park yesterday and had a very pleasant walk together. The park has open spaces and woods also lakes.He saw coots with chicks and just watched them calmly: not interested in pulling to get nearer or show any interest in chasing.Friends have been most understanding and cooperative when visiting and I can see improvements with Rufus. He has also improved in not mouthing or nipping so much.Considering  we have only been putting your instructions in place for just over a week (and him being bitten into the bargain), I feel Rufus has made a promising start.
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 Rufus. 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 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).

Away From Mother and Siblings and Six Weeks is Too Young

Jack Russel cross is just seven weeks oldThey have had Jack Russel X Alfie for a week now and he’s still only seven weeks old. He should not yet have left his litter mates. Consequently, he’s not had a chance to learn stuff he should be learning from other dogs, especially regarding the use of his sharp little teeth!

When people have not not had a puppy before, how can they know who to listen to and what information is correct? The breeder said feed him chocolate and whenever he poos indoors to rub his nose in it. The pet shop said pick him up by the scruff of his neck. Someone else said don’t shut him in his crate. Unbelievable. TV programmes and internet all give conflicting advice.

Today I worked on a ‘starter’ puppy plan with the lady and her eight-year-old daughter – a very switched on and willing little girl where their animals are concerned. They have two rabbits and a guinea pig running free in the garden along with two cats, all of which Alfie must learn to get along with. I found a small rabbit harness in my bag of bits that fitted him so that we had something to attach a lead to without causing him discomfort, and so he can happily get used to the other animals in safety. The family must now provide Alfie with what he should be learning from his ‘dog’ family – behaving a bit as other puppies would when he nips or grabs and won’t let go. In this way he will understand what is required of him.

I shall be visiting again in about three weeks because he will then be old enough to learn a few basics like how to walk nicely beside them – off lead initially, and to get used to a lead.

A tiny puppy can change a lot it three weeks!

Westie Puppy – Just Being a Typical Puppy

Westie puppyPoppy is four and a half months old – and delightful!

She is a feisty puppy – with the usual mad tearing around sessions puppies have, especially in the evening. She has taken to barking persistently for attention, and like many people their response, telling the dog to be quiet and inevitably getting cross, gives her the attention she wants, and she becomes even more hyped up.

This results in Poppy using her teeth. Unfortunately she left her litter mates too young and never learnt proper bite inhibition. If, from the start, the moment they felt teeth they had given a short high squeal just as another puppy would have done, and turned away and blanked her every single time, she would no longer be nipping. Unfortunately loud ‘uh-uh’ and ‘no’ and scolding merely fires her up.

Not only her barking both for attention but also barking at things she hears and sees outside the window is getting worse. If one dog in a group of dogs barks, usually the rest rush over as backup and start to bark also. When the owner shouts at the dog it has the same effect. The poor puppy is already on protection duty, so the owner’s response is key. Would you shout ‘be quiet’ to a child at the window screaming that a man in a balaclave with a machine gun was walking up the path? No. Would you ignore him and let him deal with it himself? No.

For much of the day Poppy is relaxed and as good as gold. By seeing things from her point of view and reacting accordingly, these behaviour as will be nipped in the bud before they develop further.

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

Jumping up and teeth

Whippet Cocker mixLucy is the most endearing little dog. She is a seven month old Whippet/Cocker Spaniel mix, with a whippet body and cocker spaniel ears – and bounce! With this breed combination one would not expect her to be slow and placid! Mix this with two young children and you have a recipe for EXCITEMENT.

Lucy does many of the things most young dogs do – but to excess. Jumping up, flying about, nipping and whining if shut out. Nothing new really! I have personal experience from my own working cocker spaniel Pickle, now 11 months old, of a young dog fired with rocket fuel.  Everything he does is at double speed – he can’t even spare the time to stay still long enough to toilet so does it on the run. With Pickle I knew what to do from day one and he learnt that jumping up never got him any attention. If he jumped on people we would turn away or simply stand up to tip him off. No eye contact, no touching and no words. If he jumped at a table he would be patiently, quietly, gently and consistently removed by his collar or harness. If he became over-excited he would be calmly put in his crate for a short ‘time-out’ break to calm down.  Consistency is the key.

Pickle never did use his teeth though. This will be because he was with at least one other sibling until eleven weeks of age and puppies learn from one another. Lucy unfortunately left her litter at six weeks old and her new family didn’t realise how important it was to teach the tiny puppy not to use her teeth – but in a way the other puppies would – with a short squeal and walking or turning away. Lucy thinks the children’s reaction to her nipping is play. Shouting OUCH is meaningless to a puppy. Pushing her away is a game and an invitation to nip hands and arms. Tapping her on the nose is an invitation to a rough game or a bite.

This is a superb little dog. We will take things a bit at a time. Firstly curb the jumping and nipping, and basic lead work in the garden and near to home without children or buggy. They will do their best to avoid unecessary excitement. Until she is a bit calmer nothing more can be done. The slightest bit off attention hypes her up.

We can then look at teaching a few basics like sit, down and stay, and taking the walking a bit further afield.

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