Moving In Together



She has four children, he has two dogs and they are moving in together.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Suzie is on the left and Ben below  They are beautiful, friendly dogs but too excitable and not a little unruly!

Both dogs jump all over the sofas and all over people. Ben jumps up at the children and can knock the younger ones over.

The 3-year-old child has to be watched because she wants to hug the dogs and they don’t like it.

What worries their mother most is Suzie’s way of snatching food. She is rightly concerned that if a child is walking around with a biscuit for example, that it could unintentionally be bitten.

When I held a tiny treat in my fist, Suzie was absolutely frantic to get it.  It’s like she’s starving hungry. I have seldom seen anything quite like it.


I’m sure there is more to this although a vet has previously said she’s okay.

Although Suzie eats just the same amount as solid Buster, she is extremely thin. They have much more to pick up after her in the garden than from Ben, so food must be passing through her. She is given very little exercise so she shouldn’t really be so skinny. If a change in diet doesn’t work quickly, then another visit to the vet is called for.

Dog walks have become more and more infrequent for various reasons. These two dogs will be a lot more settled with regular exercise and healthy stimulation to compensate for the hours they spend alone during the day.

I showed the couple how to start a walk without the dog charging out of the door and pulling frantically down the passage. Suzie caught on really fast. This is not easy when a walk has become an exciting rarity. The couple will make themselves a do-able schedule of ‘little and often’ for the dogs involving walks and basic training.

The children also have their own things to learn. The youngest needs to be taught not to hug dogs. Safety first, a gate should be between kitchen and sitting room so that dogs and children can be separated either when any food is about or when an adult hasn’t their eye on them.

With work, I’m sure that these lovely dogs will then calm down and learn some self-control. It’s all up to their humans. It’s great that they love the children.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sasha and Ben, 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, most particularly where children are involved also. 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).

Unruly Adolescent Black Labrador

unruly adolescentI fell in love (again)! This time it was with 8-month-old black Labrador Peppa.

Her increasingly demanding attention-seeking behaviour was becoming potentially dangerous for their six year old daughter.

Behaviour worsens in the evening

It tends to be worse in the evening – as it often seems to be with many young dogs. There is a lot of jumping up in general, but when the little girl sits down to do her homework or watch TV and mum is trying to cook tea, the battle commences. Peppa flies all over the child if not closely controlled. By the time dad has come home and the adults sit down in the evening for some peace and quiet. The unruly adolescent really gets stuck in.

She starts with climbing on them whereupon she is told to get down and pushed off. Commands make her defiant (she is a teenager!). Soon this escalates to grabbing clothes, barking for attention, air snapping and even nipping.

It goes on and on until they get so exasperated they shout at her. She is getting their undivided attention now!

Understandably they are only too pleased when she is quiet so when she’s being good they leave her alone. That way the unruly adolescent learns that the best attention happens when she is annoying. She isn’t shown an acceptable alternative way to get their attention.

She needs more planned interaction and stimulation

It is a bit like goalkeeper fielding all the balls. Instead of waiting for Peppa to instigate something and responding to her, they need to behave more like forwards. They need to instigate attention at times to suit them and they need to teach her alternatives incompatible with her demanding  behaviour.

When they simply want peace, they will first find a bit of time for Peppa. They can also give her things to chew and to do.

I soon taught her, instead of jumping on us, to sit and then lie down instead. Each time the urge came to demand attention by jumping she was redirected to lying down whereupon she was, of course, rewarded with attention and food. Soon she was doing this of her own accord.

We then added ‘stay’ which will be gradually increased over time. She liked that game! I also taught her the ‘touch’ trick which she learnt in just a few minutes. She was literally lapping it up and eager to learn. The unruly adolescent when bored is a very clever dog with a brain that is not sufficiently exercised.

One thing that may be adding to the problem is that she’s not fed until the evening, so it’s possible the late food is giving her an energy rush of calories.

So, on one hand Peppa needs to learn self-control and to understand that good things happen when her feet are on the floor and she’s polite. On the other hand she needs a vacuum in her life filled with some constructive activity.

Unruly Two Sprocker Pups. Crated d

Benjie spends most of the day in the crate with his brother


5-month-old Sprocker brothers Ollie and Benjie live in the kitchen, along with 10-year-old Springer Flossie.

The room was crowded with a large table, a small sofa and two crates, three young children, the couple and their adult son.

Spending hours on end in their crates

Because of the family’s work schedules, the young dogs spend hours each day in their crates. They have already been shut in crates for about nine hours at night.

The family member who had joint responsibility, who had initiated getting the two youngsters, had left without warning.

Sometimes a problem can be so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to start. It’s impossible for the puppies not to be unruly when they get some freedom.

Things were understandably a bit more chaotic than usual because of my arrival. It also was nearly bedtime for the three young children which was noisy. I saw the young dogs at their worst and most unruly which is probably a good thing.

unruly puppies


When they are let out of their crates the unruly puppies are completely out of control. They leap all over people, up at the table and sides. They nick anything they can reach and toilet anywhere. This is due both to excitement and the fact nobody thinks to put them outside regularly enough.

For this reason, even when the family is in the kitchen, the young dogs are crated or outside.

Unruly because their needs are not met

The people don’t let them out of their crates separately, feeling it’s unfair. However, I found having them out together impossible so we shut one away at a time. I lent the crated one my Stagbar to chew which he loved.

Then, while we talked and after the children had gone to bed, I worked on the other dog. I showed the people how their own reactions to the jumping up is giving the dogs the only real attention they get. I showed them how we could give the pups even better attention when they were behaving well.

We worked mostly on their jumping at the table and sides.

This will be a big challenge, taking time, patience and consistency from the three adults. These puppies need a lot more time spent on them.

In the short time I was there I had taught both dogs to sit and one of them to lie down upon request. I used rewards, something they are not used to.

Ollie was doing all he could to be good. He was like a sponge. Sitting deliberately instead of jumping up. Bless him. He managed to sit still for long enough for me to take a photo of him (above).

Motivating them

From now on the dogs should be earning some of their food – being rewarded all the time they behave well. This will be very difficult in the bustle and noise when young children are about, but one dog at a time can be free. The other given something satisfying to do or to chew in the crate.

Because of the unruly situation, unsurprisingly the two dogs sometimes fight. Unchecked, this will probably get worse as they get older. Poor older Flossie is terrorised.

The pups fly all over children on the sofa and I am concerned a child may get hurt unless just one is out at a time.

The dogs have just one short outing each day – you can’t really call it a walk. The front door is opened and the unruly puppies simply fly out to the adjacent park, off lead, doing their own thing. They are puppies but already barking at people and other dogs.

There was one surprisingly good thing – showing what these dogs are capable of when given time and trouble.  I watched the adult son preparing their food. They sat calmly and waited!

Is this the right home for them?

This is not a situation the family had envisaged when they got the puppies. If they can’t find a lot more quality time for their dogs then they would be better with just one pup – or maybe even re-homing them both.

This would both give the dogs the lives they deserve and it would give the family their lives back.

Jumping Up and Nicking His Master’s Tools!

Basset Merlin has a great personality, and look at that face!Sometimes there has to be a trade-off between what people want of their dog and what they are prepared to do to get it!

6-month-old Bassett/Welsh Foxhound Merlin is hilarious. What a face! He has a wonderful personality – he’s affectionate, friendly, playful…….and deliberately ‘naughty’!

His ‘crimes’ are stealing things, especially his owners tools including even an electric drill, and hoarding them in the garden. He jumps up at the sides to take anything he can find. He jumps up at people.

He would do none of these things if they weren’t rewarding in some way. I noticed that whenever he jumped up at the sides, people were slow in calling him down and not on the look-out, so from Merlin’s point of view there’s no consistent rule. When he is caught, loud DOWN and crossness is quite high-value attention for a tough dog!

He jumps up at people because it always gets a big result. He needs attention only when his feet are on the floor, but everyone has to do this. Unfortunately, the dogs are out in the garden much of the time and people who call are jumped on as they get out of their cars. The owners have a choice. They keep the dogs in unless supervised (which they don’t want to do) or they put up with the jumping up at callers. Something has to give. They want their dogs to run free on their land, so it’s their choice.

Stealing things is such fun! Being chased by an irate man who actually loves him dearly is a great game. He shows no aggression or possessiveness, and the tools can always be found in the usual place outside. The price to pay for now and until Merlin gets beyond his teenage stage is to keep things out of his reach and restrict free access to the garden – as one would with a toddler. Again, the people have a choice. Merlin is always ready for the main chance and misses little!

Their current ways of trying to teach him involve punishment, sometimes physical, or scolding. He must see little point in not jumping up because feet on the ground isn’t rewarding, and coming away from the sides in the kitchen isn’t rewarding. Resisting the temptation to nick something isn’t rewarding – but to Merlin running off with it is! It enfuriates them.

Seeing him lying on his back on the sofa is a picture. He really is the softest and silliest dog. I loved him. To the extent that his owners are prepared to change what they do, they will be able to change what Merlin does.

Gentle Giant

Great Dane Troy lying down amongst the baby toysToday I met Troy! What a treat. Look at that face! When I sat down he towered over me.

The Great Dane lives with a couple who have an eighteen week old baby and a toddler – people with their hands full at the moment. Troy at only fifteen months old himself may not have quite enough to keep his clever mind occupied, so he is finding things for himself to do. Things like wrecking beds when he is left alone and chewing the kitchen table and chairs.  Chewing the children’s toys hasn’t occured to him fortunately, and he’s very gentle around the baby and the little boy.

It’s great fun pretending to want to come in from the garden and then giving the run-around when they open the door – especially when after several circuits of the garden it means causing chaos by running in over the carpet with huge muddy feet! It’s great fun running off to play with other dogs and giving the run-around when they want to get him back. It’s great fun to cause chaos in the kitchen with little polystyrene beads from a destroyed bed all over the floor like snow. His owners’ response when they get home isn’t quite so much fun though – but at least it’s attention.

Giving Troy commands merely gives him the opportunity to refuse, so we are finding ways to outwit him. When your dog exasperates you, you perhaps don’t realise just how many times you are saying No, or Down, or Bed! As with a child, it’s good to think of ways to show him what you would like him to do instead. Rather than being cross when Troy doesn’t come in from the garden, they are going to teach him that it’s rewarding to come in straight away when called, and no fun at all if he doesn’t.

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