Bully behaviour. New Dog is Finding her Feet

A week ago, their new rescue dog began to bully their other dog.

Cookie

Six-year-old Cookie is a cute and somewhat nervous, anxious little terrier. Rudi, a Wirehaired Terrier, joined them six weeks ago.

It began with the calmer and more confident Rudi eyeballing Cookie.

Next, one of the young daughters was fussing both dogs and suddenly Rudi went for Cookie.

The next occasion was triggered by someone dropping and smashing a food bowl. Things then came to a head with a fight over a bone.

Continue reading…

Big Change in Poppy’s Life. Wary of People, Traffic and Dogs

What a big change in living style the mix-breed terrier has had.

It seems Poppy came from a fairly manic household with comings and goings, unpredictable young people and lots of noise. Judging by how she may now wince or recoil from hands, it’s very likely she wasn’t handled very kindly.

It’s possible a man treated her harshly, though it is common for nervous dogs to be more afraid of men than of women.

Not sorry to lose her

They asked one of the older children if they were sorry to see her go. The child said, ‘Not really’. Continue reading…

Punish Fear. Training Discs. Scared of Clicker

Little Terrier Ricky was found abandoned in Ireland, very young and with a broken pelvis. He is two years old.

Ricky now has the near-perfect life for him with the couple he has lived with for a year. He’s very friendly with people and best loves to be snuggled up on the man’s lap. He is however a sensitive little dog – perhaps more sensitive than one might think.

Something has frightened him badly either in his past life or as the result of someone demonstrating how they should ‘cure’ his barking at the hoover. They tell me this person threw spoons on the floor in front of him – or it may have been training discs specifically manufactured for ‘scaring’ a dog out of doing something.

Why would anyone think to punish fear is a good idea?

This has led me a bit away from this actual case, but I find it incredible that anyone can think punishing a dog already exhibiting fear with further terror can be a good way to go about things. This was often the old way of ‘curing’ a dog of barking at something – and there are a few old-school people including a well-known TV trainer who carry on promoting the ‘punish fear’ kind of approach.

to punish fear makes it worseIn human terms, would we slap a child for crying because he’s afraid, say, of the dark? The noise may stop but for sure the fear would increase.

Fortunately Ricky’s lovely owners would never knowingly scare their little dog and didn’t take up the punish fear advice to stop his barking at other dogs.

We discussed ways of helping Ricky to become more confident and to overcome his fear of dogs in situations where he feels vulnerable or trapped. A clicker can be a useful tool. It turned out that he was very scared of a clicker.

Ricky’s owners had bought a clicker a while ago and, as most people would, just clicked it.

Ricky ran and hid. They didn’t try it again

Could the sudden click have reminded him of the sudden throwing down of spoons or discs, I wonder? Perhaps the click reminded him of something from his early past.

I’m careful when I introduce a clicker. I will muffle it under my arm on in a pocket, just to check how the dogs feels with the sound. It’s not uncommon for a nervous dog to react.

Threshold

Because I thought a clicker could be useful, I had another go, this time being very careful to muffle it so the sound was very soft.  I clicked and I threw food. Ricky was fine.

I gradually brought it out from under my arm, making the sound less muffled.

Then, all of a sudden, it was too much. Ricky was scared. Even though I thought I had been bringing it out gradually, it wasn’t gradual enough.

Needless to say, clicker will never be used with him again.

It was an interesting for them to clearly see, though, the dog’s fear ‘threshold’ and how slowly things have to be taken. Once over threshold, the dog is scared and unable to learn or function properly.

Ricky then was then for a while uneasy with me also. This demonstrated how scaring a dog in this way may spread to fear of other associated things like the person who administers the frightener or even the location where it happened. It can destroy trust.

This shows the principle of how they will be dealing with Ricky’s fear of approaching dogs. He only reacts when they get very close and when he’s on lead, unable to escape. However, if they watch him carefully, they will see that he is uneasy long before it gets to that.

This is the point at which they will start to work on his fear. And they certainly wouldn’t punish fear. Instead they will do the opposite. They will work on reducing fear by building up positive associations.

Taking their dog to the pub.

An end goal, similar to that of quite a few other people I go to, is to be able to take their dog to the pub!

They want him to ignore other dogs coming in or passing by rather than barking defensively at them.

Punish fear by throwing discs, keys or spoons as some people (certainly not Ricky’s humans) might? Possibly the barking would stop, temporarily. How, though, would the dog feel about an approaching dog another time?

When another dog is sufficiently far away for Ricky to know it’s there but he’s still relaxed, food should rain down on him. The challenge is to do this before Ricky goes ‘over threshold’ with the other dog being too close or Ricky already being too stirred up to accept it.

Fortunately he has quite a few doggy friends and is fine in a group. It’s only when he feels cornered or trapped and the dog gets too close.

To get to the stage of sitting in a pub garden with other dogs coming and going also requires Ricky to feel more comfortable when directly approached by another dog when he’s out on lead.

They will give Ricky coping mechanisms.

 

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 Ricky and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Listening to ‘other people’, 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 is concerned. 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)

Trigger Stacking. The Perfect Storm

It was the perfect storm.

It was a clear example of trigger stacking. The day had been over-exciting. There had been lots of people in the house. The dogs had had too many treats. They will have done their usual barking at people in the park behind their garden.

Then a delivery man in Dayglo came to the door. A family member followed him back down the path where they talked over the gate.

Trigger stacking led to the bite

Boba

He had forgotten to shut the front door behind him.

Boba flew out of the house barking. He leapt high in the air at the man and caught his mouth. The bite required several stitches. Now, unsurprisingly, there is a court case pending.

Boba is a three-year-old Jack Russell mix who lived in a pound in Greece until he was eight months old. He’s a perky, affectionate little dog. He lives with Gibson, a Setter mix who was a Greek street dog and a super-soft and loving twelve-year-old Cocker Spaniel called Benson.

When I arrived Gibson went and hid, but the other two were very friendly and excited.

What alarms Boba is hearing or seeing people out the front in the street and people in the park out the back. All three dogs bark. Very likely, being dogs, they believe that it’s their barking that eventually drives the people away from their territory.

Although Boba is territorial when anyone is outside the gate, once a person enters the house he is usually very friendly. He has no history of biting.

He’s fine, too, when they meet people out on walks away from the house.

Management.

The first thing we discussed was management – precautions.

They will put a baby gate a few feet in from their front door that will be kept shut all the time. If it’s kept shut as a matter of habit, there will be a kind of air-lock making a repetition of the attack almost impossible.

They will also introduce Boba to a basket muzzle – just in case they need it. It could be a requirement of the court that he wears one.

Trigger stacking.

The second thing is to deal with is the trigger stacking, to reduce the continual topping up of arousal levels in all three dogs. They all fire one another up.

Each time a dog is over-excited or is caused stress, the adrenal and thyroid glands, testosterone and hypothalamus begin to increase their production. The output from these glands reach a peak 10-15 minutes after the incident, and takes between 3-5 days to return to the level they were at before the incident. Here is a nice visual explanation of trigger stacking.

Reducing arousal levels can be very boring. Greetings need to be calmer, rough play toned down with more brain games, more chewing, hunting and foraging instead. Friends and family need persuading to help by not being over-excited and winding them up.

Even the food they eat can make a big difference.

I believe that if Boba’s basic arousal levels had been a lot lower, then he would have had enough ‘to spare’ when he ran out of the front door to the delivery man at the gate. He would have been less likely to fly at him. It was one trigger too many.

Territorial barking.

Crucial to the whole thing is to deal with the dogs’ territorial barking. At present they have a dog flap which is left open all the time. Even when the owners are out their dogs can be barking in the garden at people they hear. Boba will be continually rehearsing territorial aggression so it’s little wonder he put it into practice on that fateful occasion.

Benson

Currently, like many people, they have tried water spray and anti-bark collars but this doesn’t stop the dog feeling angry or scared inside. The opposite in fact. They may ignore the barking until it gets too much and then shout at the dogs.

Barking is a trigger. It ignites a dog’s stress levels.

The humans are the ‘dog-parents’ so protection duty should be their job. They should intervene immediately and deal with it, thanking the dogs and calling them away. The dogs should come if interrupted quickly enough and rewarded with food. Blocking barking areas and shutting the dog flap will make this a lot easier.

When I was there I pre-empted barking a couple of times. I head a door slam and the dogs perk up, but before they had time to start I brightly said ‘Okay’. No barking.

Now, not only will Boba not be physically able to bite someone at the gate again, after a while he shouldn’t feel he needs to. He will be generally calmer as will all three dogs. He will be taught that follow-through isn’t his job.

 

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 Boba. 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 or any form of aggression is concerned. 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).

Marking or Housetraining?

When the couple go out, they usually come back to small amounts of yellow pee in various parts of the kitchen.

marking in the house

Buddy – with Marley peeping in the background

Recently this had begun to happen at night too.

So they had gone back to ‘housetraining’ the little terrier with frequent visits to the garden. Adorable Buddy is now two years old.

The only thing that has so far made any difference has been putting him back in his crate at night where he used to sleep when he was younger.

Buddy crated – no urine.

The peeing never happens in the day if people are at home. However, if they go out and leave the two dogs alone for just a short while they come back to urine.  They will be videoing them to see exactly what happens during the day when they are out. Now that Buddy is in his crate during the night there is no urine – so we can be sure the marking is not Marley.

This is not actually a housetraining problem as it never happens when the dogs have access to their humans. The cause of the marking has to be Buddy’s feelings when left.

To compound the problem, it’s only recently that the dogs have been left alone, downstairs in the kitchen, at night time.

It’s not just peeing to empty his bladder. It’s marking.

The other dog, also two years old, is a beautiful Sprocker called Marley. Now left in the kitchen with Buddy at bedtime, he too is very stressed. He cries all night and scratches at the door. He wants to sleep upstairs on their bed like he used to.

The young lady has recently moved into her boyfriend’s house and they have decided that from now on the dogs will sleep downstairs. Previously they had slept on her bed with her – both where she lived previously and upstairs in this house. Now they are shut in the kitchen.

She has left Marley to cry for a couple of nights. This obviously is upsetting and tiring for her but imagine what state the sensitive Marley will be in after a whole night of crying.

Separation is the real problem. Marking is a symptom.

They may, understandably, be cross with Buddy when they come home which can only add to anxiety which is the cause of the whole problem. Because by definition ‘marking’ is about being noticed, in case he does see any connection with their crossness and the marking which is doubtful, they should ignore it and clear up when the dogs are both outside.

Because he has always marked when left alone there is also bound to be an element of habit to it which can now be broken.

Some days the dogs are left home alone in the kitchen for nine hours. Add to this their no longer being allowed in the bedroom for the night, it does mean a lot of time apart from the couple who adore the dogs and want them to be happy.

What can they do?

Buddy and Marley

They will need somehow to make sure the long days are broken up with someone coming in the middle of the day.

Some days the young man has been working from home. He says he will now take them to work in his office when he can. They have friends who may be able to help out on other days.

Left for shorter periods, they can perhaps keep alternating crating Buddy with leaving him free in the kitchen with Marley. When he’s in the crate he won’t pee. Both dogs can be left with a stuffed Kong to work on – something not wise if both are loose together just in case there are arguments over the food. (Take a look at this: Ode to a Kong).

They can also leave toys and other things for them to do. Background music especially created for dogs could help keep them calm.

They can gate the stairs so from now onwards both dogs no longer expect to go upstairs ever again. At present they can still be upstairs in the bedroom with the couple during the day and evening but have to go to the kitchen at night.

There are some other problems we are addressing. Sprocker Marley is constantly active, running about, leaping over things, sniffing and being busy and no doubt needs more to do. The little terrier is noisy, reactive and prone to obsessing over moving shadows and reflections. They have two kittens which over-excite Buddy. General strategies to lower their stress levels along with appropriate healthy stimulation will undoubtedly help with everything.

When people work hard with only so many hours in the day, something somewhere has to give. In this case with the young man is really on board with helping his girlfriend’s dogs and I am sure they will make the changes necessary to give them more healthy mental stimulation, less arousal and less time alone.

 

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 approach I have worked out for Buddy and Marley 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. 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)

Too Much Barking From Little Dog

Jack Russell Yorke mixLittle Scamp’s barking and vocalising is driving his lady person crazy! He is an eight year-old Jack Russell Yorkie cross and he has lived with her from eight weeks old.

This has been going on for years, so the lady does accept that what she has been doing (mostly scolding and getting cross) hasn’t worked, therefore she may need to do things differently.

Having spoken to her on the phone, I was expecting something a lot worse. Scamp barks to get attention, he whines and squeaks too. He also alarm barks at sounds outside. The phone rings and he rushes to the lady and barks until she picks it up.

As I asked all my usual questions I could find a whole lot more GOOD things than bad. I encouraged the lady to look for these things too. Here are some: Scamp stops barking when the lady picks up the phone unlike may dogs I go to, throw something and he brings it back and (usually) gives it up, he may bark at the cat in play but he is brilliant with the cat, he settles quietly and quickly whenever he is put into his crate, he has no problem with being left alone, he is very friendly to everyone and every dog, when touched or examined he relaxes like a rag doll… I could go on and on.

We need to look at what is really only to do with noise and why he makes it. Firstly he alarm barks when someone passes the house, the phone or doorbell rings or there are sounds outside. He barks when the lady goes to look out of the window (he senses it’s because someone may be outside?). Secondly, he barks when the lady doesn’t give him the attention he is asking for. Finally he barks with excitement when he’s playing.

Barking is what dogs do – some more than others. I wonder how many dogs would like us humans to talk, shout and sing less!

Scamp makes all this noise because it works. If he barks at someone passing by what does that person do? Go! If he barks at the lady for attention what does the lady do? Either plays with him or gets cross which is – attention. Scamp always gets a result.

Just as with children, if we start looking for the GOOD things in our dogs it actually makes them behave better, and the things we don’t like become smaller. It makes us happier too.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Scamp, 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 dogs 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

Rushes Over to Other Dogs

MillyYorkeNot all dogs like a little dog to rush up to them and jump all over them. So far Milly has come to no harm.

Three-year-old Yorkie/Terrier cross Milly is an absolute delight – a little bundle of friendliness and joy. Many of the people I go to would love to have a dog whose problem is being too friendly with other dogs, rather than being fearful, barking and reactive.

Milly runs up and play bows, jumps about and invites them for a game.  She’s not deterred if they don’t want to know.

Understandably,  the lady wants Milly to come back to her more readily when other dogs are about, and not to pull towards them so enthusiastically when she’s on lead.

If it were not for this uncontrolled excitement when she sees another dog (which may just also be her way of dealing with slight anxiety) , life with Milly would be perfect.

The lady may now get her dog’s attention more easily if she uses a whistle when Milly’s off lead and sees a dog. She needs first to pair the whistle with extra-special tasty rewards and to practise over and over at home and also when out but only when she knows that Milly will come, before she uses it for real to call her back from running eagerly over to a dog.

Milly is currently kept on quite a short lead and she pulls. She would like to sniff more than she’s allowed. When they see a dog she’s held back and made to walk at the lady’s pace towards it.

Now the lady will be using a longer lead and giving Milly some slack – and time to sniff. I recently discovered the notion of ‘Smell Walks‘ which I think are a great idea. She should then be more relaxed.

When a dog approaches the lady will bend over and gently restrain her by her harness, and just as with the puppy in my previous post, teach her some self-control, being calmly encouraging. The lady will check first to see if the other dog is going to welcome Milly’s attentions, and only then will she release Milly and give her the length of the lead when the dog is close enough.  If the dog isn’t interested, then they can wait until it’s passed before carrying on with their walk.

This will take a while, but isn’t it great to have a dog whose only problem is being too friendly!

At the end of their month: ‘We are constantly going forward with our work, Milly’s recall is so much better now and she comes instantly. Her constant barking has now stopped, she has got the message at last. The barking at the tv is subsiding. She will bark at the tv and then automatically look at me then she puts herself to bed. I haven’t sent her to bed for barking at the tv since we began with you. If I have any problems, I will be in touch. Thank you for your help.

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

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).

Can’t Be Trusted Off Lead

TillyTilly was attacked by another dog a while ago and she hasn’t been the same been the same since.

The lady has lived with the problem until last week when things came to a head.  A workman left the gate open and Tilly rushed out and attacked a dog walking past the house, resulting in an injured dog and a very angry owner.

Now she can’t be trusted off lead. Look at her – you can’t imagine it, can you!

Tilly, a four-year-old mix of Patterdale Terrier and Lakeland,  is an extremely good little dog in the house. She is great company for the lady and sociable with her friends.

Out on walks, however, things are different. As soon as they now see another dog the lady becomes anxious. She tightens the lead. Tilly will then hackle, lunge and bark. She has earned a bit of a reputation locally for her noise. This is a shame because she is great with dogs she knows, and in the past has been fine when off lead.

She is also ‘funny’ with men when out, and doesn’t like bikes and joggers. The lady dare not let her off lead anymore, scared she may bite.

Needless to say, the situation will continue to get worse unless the lady does things a bit differently.

There is quite a lot of groundwork to do at home. Tilly needs to be relieved of any guard duty so she doesn’t practise barking at passing people and dogs. The lady is going to work at getting her immediate and full attention as soon as she says Tilly’s name. It needs to become an automatic reflex. If she can’t get her attention at home, then she certainly won’t get her attention when she’s out.

Walks and other dogs will be approached very differently and this will take considerable time and more help.

There is no reason why she shouldn’t be on a very long line in open spaces and allowed to play if it seems okay.

Like the automatic response to hearing her name, she needs a similarly automatic response to being called. This work also needs to begin at home and where there are few distractions.

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

Anxious Terrier Faces Huge Adjustments

Jayden had been in rescue kennels for two yearsJayden is a complicated little chap who is trying to adjust to huge changes in his life. He had been in rescue in Terrier Jayden is often motionless and inscrutableAustralia for two years and was brought over here by a young couple just a week or so ago. After a long flight he is becoming used to living in a house.

A year ago the lady worked in those kennels. She made friends with the anxious terried by sitting with him in her lunch breaks and has undoubtedly made considerable headway already, by simply giving him love.

She is now a vet nurse and this is from her original message to me: “…he has been previously abused or terribly socialised. I have worked with many rescue dogs and he is the most anxious I have ever met. He has some aggression problems. He chair guards so he is no longer allowed on the sofa, he has food aggression which we are working on, but the problem I have is the time he unexpectedly snaps at us. He will come on my lap for a cuddle, and when I stroke him sometimes he goes for me. It is very disheartening as I cannot see what has triggers it….. he is too scared to go for a proper walk and will only go to the end of the road and back at the moment, although this is an improvement”.

What wonderful people this little dog now lives with. The time has come, however, for them to have an objective view. They are giving him far too much attention, to the extent that every time he moves he’s asked ‘are you okay?’ It shouldn’t be assumed that just because he jumps on them that he’s come for a cuddle. He may just like the comfy closeness and cuddles will be a novelty to him. He is often motionless and inscrutable, but every now and then his inner state may manifest itself with lip-licking, shaking off, paw lifting and yawning. He may simply stare at them from a door way, motionless and anxious. He drags a blanket to his food bowl to bury it under.  When they come home he crawls towards them on his tummy, and in his excitement this is the only time he allows petting. He takes out his stress on his blanket – ripping or humping it.

Jayden is a little dog of contradictions. He is unnaturally quiet – the only thing he has barked at (so far) is vapour trails from planes in the sky. Perhaps the sound the aircraft reminds him of his long journey? When I entered, surprisingly he just sniffed me and settled down in his bed until later, when the pressure of human attention was focussed on him.

We isolated some of the issues – snapping when touched, snapping around food, growling and snapping when approached and on a sofa or chair, fear of the car and hoover, and cowering when approached with his harness or lead.

Each of these things can be broken down into tiny increments and worked on – just as they are already doing on the walks. For instance, they can start touching parts of his body he’s okay with, using treats, and keeping it at no more than just one touch with the back of the hand whilst watching very carefully for any signals – freezing or looking away for instance – that show he’s unhappy and would mean they have gone too far, so should immediately backtrack. He can eventually be taught, as a food-rewarded ‘touch’ game, to approach hands himself.

They will do everything they possibly can to lower his stress levels and take pressure off him.

Just imagine, being in kennels for two years after a past life we can’t even guess at, having at five years of age to adjust to the sort of normal loving home life he has probably never known. The couple desparately want to compensate for his past, and I think they now see that they may be overdoing it a bit. Hand feeding and leaving his food about, waiting on him, being on his case all the time and so wanting to cuddle him, are all notions that need to be abandoned for the forseeable future.

He is one little Australian pound dog who has belatedly fallen on his feet.