Other Dogs. Walks. Pulling on Lead. Canicross

 

They had two German Shorthaired Pointers, Douglas and Gracie with which the couple did Canicross. Sadly, Gracie developed cancer, had to have a leg amputated and can no longer run.

Four months ago they adopted two-year-old Louie.

They want to run with him also, but his reactivity to certain other dogs makes it difficult.

Outings fall into two categories.

There are general daily walks and there is Canicross which they do several times a week.

The downside of Canicross is the level of arousal that is built up – putting Louie in the wrong state of mind for being non-reactive around other dogs.

Canicross and reactivity to other dogs

Douglas and Louie

There are conflicting things involved.

Arousal and excitement seem to be part of Canicross.

But for learning to chill around other dogs, over-arousal is counter-productive.

For Canicross in a group, Louie will be close to other dogs.

For working with his being at ease near other dogs, distance is necessary.

For Canicross Louie needs to learn to pull – with a special harness.

But for walking in a relaxed fashion, enjoying the walk for it’s own sake, pulling and excitement are counter-productive.

One seldom sees calm dogs on a loose lead, sniffing, peeing and generally enjoying the walk and ‘clocking in’ with their owner being reactive when they see another dog.

Calm everyday walks; Canicross something different.

We will aim at using everyday loose-lead walks as a kind of antidote to Canicross where they are trying to get Louie to pull.

At present walks are about trying to stop him pulling by using a head halter and then walking somewhere in a determined manner for the sake of exercise. These walks will now be as stress-free, calm and comfortable as possible.

I would abandon the head halter and use a harness, but not of the Canicross type. The lead can hook onto the front. This will then feel completely different to the Canicross pulling harness.

What is a dog walk anyway?

Instead of trying to get somewhere, they can wander. The dogs use up so much energy with the running several times a week that walks need not be about exercise. They can give Louie full length of the training lead and let him stop whenever he likes. With the lead hooked on the chest he will be less inclined to pull. He will learn the difference.

The walk is about the journey, not the destination. If they have forty-five minutes, then they can fill that with something different each day and simply see what crops up.

Against this background, dealing with his reactivity to certain other dogs will be a lot easier. He should not be feeling restricted on tight lead and head halter when he sees another dog. They can associate dogs with good stuff – food and fun. They will make sure he doesn’t get any nearer than he’s comfortable with.

At present they are mainly avoiding other dogs on walks which will get them nowhere. In contrast, they then run with a group of dogs and this is too much. Louie may ignore the dogs when fired up with running and some he may for a while run shoulder-to-shoulder with. However, he may suddenly snap at them and bark at others.

Building up to Canicross in a group.

It’s not realistic to suggest they no longer do Canicross with Louie. However, they will go running with him alone to start with, then with a couple of dogs he gets along with and gradually build it up from there.

There is preparation work to be done at home. Two terriers live next door and they are enemies the other side of the fence. Louie patrols the garden, waiting for them to come out. While he’s rehearsing aggressive behaviour towards other dogs at home, they will make less progress when out. Working on his reactivity towards these dogs will be a good place to start.

The couple themselves need to be as relevant as they can so the dogs enjoy walking with them. Only this way they will get and hold Louie’s attention when needed.

I have never done Canicross myself (now there’s a surprise) but it seems a great thing for humans and suitable athletic dogs to do together. It’s a sport that humans have chosen.

It seems to me only fair that human and dog bond doing something that is more natural to the dog too – something the dog has chosen.

Here is a study where exercise was significantly reduced and the resulting positive effect on reactivity. Adding this to Louie’s life will hopefully counterbalance the general arousal of Canicross.

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 Louie 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).

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)

Puppy Parenting Little Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise puppy under coffee tableEven the little black pads on fourteen-week-old Scooby’s feet are cute!

I love doing Puppy Parenting consultations, particularly as I am likely to keep in touch for many months – seeing them through adolescence to adulthood.

There is a lot to cover – all the usual things like toilet training and jumping up, the best sort of nutrition for the puppy and walking happily on a loose lead, but also preempting future possible problems from ever developing like guarding behaviours, fear of other dogs and running off.

Scooby has already been taught to sit and I showed them how to teach him to lie down. The next step is to work on ‘stay’.

fourteen week old Bichon Frise

Scooby with a favourite ‘toy’

Most importantly he needs to respond when he hears his name and come to them when he is called. They have a large open-plan house and very large enclosed garden and the lady worries that he might get into some sort of trouble when he is out of sight.

People often don’t realise that in order to get a puppy to come immediately they must not only sound exciting but also have something very rewarding to come to – food or fun. This needs a lot of repetition until coming when called becomes automatic – it can be made into a game as the puppy is called from one person to the other around the room and then house and garden. The man finds the ‘exciting voice’ impossible so I suggest he uses a whistle instead!

Scooby has been to two puppy classes where walking involves the puppy choking on his thin collar as he is ‘corrected’ and forced to walk to heel. That will now change.

He walked around the house beside me like a dream with no lead at all, with encouragement and rewards (placed on the floor where I want him to be). The next step is to simply clip his lead onto his harness and continue with the walking beside them – they will need a normal lead that hangs loose and not the retractable. Once good indoors it can be taken to the garden and then outside. There is absolutely no need at all for ‘correction’ of any sort if this is introduced correctly.

I look forward to my next Puppy Parenting visit.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Scooby, which is why I don’t go into exact detail details here of Scooby’s puppy plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy may be inappropriate. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with the parenting of your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Benjie and Bella sitting still at last

Springer Siblings Like a Hurricane

Having two young dogs can be a challenge. Having litter mates can be a challenge. Having young working Springer Spaniels without a job to do can be the biggest challenge of all.

The lady admits that when they picked up the two bundles of fluff they had no idea that later they would be driven to the brink of despair when they became adolescents.

Eight month old brother and sister Benjie and Bella are absolutely beautiful both in nature and to look at, but they are certainly hard work! One reason the are such hard work is because insufficient work is done with them.

Benjie is a big barker for attention. Bella is a guarder – she guards resources from Benjie so, following some fights where the lady has been bitten when splitting them up, they can’t be left with toys or chews any more. They are bored. Both dogs fly all over people and they treat the sofas and coffee table like an assault course.

The lady had been advised by the breeder (my heart often sinks when I hear this because breeders are seldom qualified in behavour or training) who said to use a shaker bottle when they are naughty. Not only is scarinBenjie and Bella playingg dogs not good for our relationship with them, they soon get immune to that and you have to try something even more scary. Worst of all, it doesn’t give the dogs a clue as to what IS required of them so can simply hype them up further.

The whole family including three children were very involved which I love.

Instead of shouting NO at the dogs, I showed them how to used food rewards and praise. It took a long time before we could really start to talk, but eventually it was beautiful to see them eagerly sitting. I then taught them to lie down (clever dogs crying out for healthy stimulation), and then even got them to sit and stay for a short while which required a huge amount of self-control from them.

The dogs spend too much of the day together in a crate, with just a visit at lunch time, and walks aren’t as fulfilling as they could be because of the terrible pulling. When people are home and the dogs become too much, they end up back in the crate. The younger daughter wrote a list of suggestions of things they could do with the dogs, individually, to give their lives more interest. They will gate their kitchen door so Bella and Benjie can sometimes be kept apart, and then each dog can have their own box of goodies – things to chew and play with – which must be lifted before they are back together again.

To get them walking nicely they will have to be walked separately to start with. For exercise they will need to be popped in the car to go to an open space. When there, they can only be let off lead one at a time and recall needs some serious work.

The more hours these two dogs are left alone, unoccupied, the more mileage they will get out of any action that is happening when people are home – and if nothing is happening they will make it happen! So, the priority is to reduce stress levels and only do things for the dogs when they are calmer and quieter whilst filling their time more productively. They will get the message if people are patient and consistent. The second important thing which is connected with the stress is to remove any opportunity for Bella to practise her growling at Benjie when she has a resource of some sort. Finally, they need to get to grips with the walking so the Springer Spaniels can sniff and run and chase, what Springers are bred for.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Benjie and Bella, which is why I don’t go into 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).

 

Cockerpoo is Back to his Happy Old Self

Algie2Cockerpoo Algie who I went to see two months ago is coming along beautifully (http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=15200). The growling is infrequent and only when Algie is feeling uncomfortable; he can now trust his humans to help him out.

The lady has now had her baby! Algie is absolutely fine with it. I went for a walk with them and Algie was a star.

I received this email today:

Algie’s behaviour on walks is going from strength to strength. I am managing to keep him calm and happy most of the time by anticipating the situation and putting myself (& a high value treat!) between him and any perceived danger. As a result we have twice now walked past a man he always used to bark at and Algie has stayed quiet, which is a great improvement.

Inside I try to do daily training of some sort and I find this is slowly improving his overall behaviour as he is becoming more responsive to me. We are are seeing improvements in the barking when people come to the door. The best thing is that this weekend we felt for the first time that we were seeing signs of the old happy go lucky Algie coming back. I’m hoping as we continue we’ll see this more as Algie gets more confident that we’re in charge and he can just concentrate in sniffing out rabbits in the woods!

Many thanks for all your help and your second visit which we found invaluable for sharpening us up.

‘Dog Walking’ Doesn’t Start at the Door

Rorttie Labrador mix sitting on her matA couple of months ago I visted Belle, Rottweiller Labrador cross, and the situation was particularly difficult for her because she had been sidelined due to the lady’s personal circumstances

Now the lady’s life is back to normal, and because she is having difficulty walking Belle without her pulling and lunging at men, bikes and so on, I called again to demonstrate the loose lead walking technique.

As the lady opened the door, Belle was jumping all over me – so I could immediately see that my instructions had not been followed in this particular respect anyway!  I suspected there would be other gaps. The lady was unable to ‘start’ the behaviour work for two or three weeks after I first called, so she had lost momentum and also forgotten quite a bit of the stuff despite the personal plan I sent to her.

So, I went out of her house again, waited a minute and knocked on the door once more. We started the way I needed to continue – I wanted the upper hand!

We waited about ten minutes before stepping out the front after having put on Belle’s harness and lead, so she was completely calm. Then I walked up and down and backwards and forwards in the street.  Belle was a dream. We passed a man whom she ignored. She had confidence in me. That is the secret. Then the lady took over.

This is a perfect example of how the dog’s confidence and respect needs to be earned in order for the dog to walk nicely and have faith in the handler. Too many owners spoil their dogs to extreme, pander to their wishes, worship them, and then expect to take charge once the front door is open.

Soon this lady will be walking down the road with her beautiful big dog, and people like me will drive past thinking ‘it’s so nice to see a dog walking like that’.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.
 

Bearded Collie/GSD Crosses

Beardie GSD mix

poppy on the left with Jasper

Jasper and Poppy are Beardie/German Shepherd mixes. They look entirely different though, and their personalities are completely different too. Poppy is dark and largely Shepherd, and Jasper is pale and much more like a Beardie to look at. Poppy is just eight months old, and Jasper is eleven years old.

Jasper always was extremely laid back – or was until Poppy arrived. He takes most things in his stride – or did until recently. Poppy is much more highly strung and generally a bit skittish.  She is scared of new people coming to her house, and scared of people when out.

Walks are becoming a big problem because Jasper has developed aggression to other dogs. He used to be fine, but this started a couple of years  ago. It may be because he was attacked, or even perhaps because he’s a bit older now and may feel a little vulnerable. He has become very protective of Poppy, and trouble can start if she goes to see another dog.  Out on walks he tends to initiate the barking, and Poppy joins in. Her hackles rise and she is scared. Their lady owner is slight in build and the joint weight of the two dogs pulling and lunging is more than her own.

So, it’s the same old problem. Reactivity to other dogs out on walks and to some people also. So many dogs I go to are fine in the dog training class, but totally different out in the real world. Traditional training doesn’t always address the problems and it needs to be approached in a completely different way – without the use of correction or force, but calm leadership techniques.

Both dogs are very well trained in ‘obedience’ and Poppy still goes to classes. What they need is something a bit more basic. I describe obedience training as the icing on the cake. You need to get the cake right. Both Jasper and Poppy need a bit more faith in their owners who are already doing most of the right things, but need a few extra tricks up their sleeves, and for each member of the family to be behaving in the same way – drinking from the same water bowl!

Here is some typical early feedback from a client: I had my first “close encounter” with another dog last night.  But for the first time I didn’t panic or tense up.  Jake was on lead and two dogs were quite a distance away.  I kept walking towards them and as soon as he clocked them I stopped and turned to walk the other way, he just followed!!  In the past he would of stood his ground and not moved.  Then to top it all there was another one coming the other way, so did exactly the same.  I did put him in the car (didn’t feel quite ready to deal with 3 dogs off lead running around) told him to sit and I stood in front the window facing the dogs.  They came bounding up to me so I just turned my back on them, Jake didn’t move – normally he would have barked!!  Made of fuss of a couple of them, Jake just sat there.  I can’t believe how in control I felt.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Two Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Two Ridgebacks on their bedsI am just back from an enjoyable visit. Sally has two entire male Rhodesian Ridgebacks – big dogs and a lot of testosterone! They are well behaved and friendly in the house on the whole, though because of their size visitors may find them intimidating. In company Sally is keen that her lovely dogs don’t let her down, so she is constantly on edge.

Sally had Weston as a puppy three years ago, and then a year later she got another puppy – Sidney. Where Weston was a cooperative, gentle natured giant, Sidney has been the opposite from the start. He is highly strung and restless, and cries when Sally is out of sight.  It just shows how two dogs of the same breed can be so very different. The trouble is that now he is mature he is leading Weston astray too.

Outside in the garden there is a lot of barking – initiated by Sidney. Weston seldom used to bark before.

Sally’s problems are mainly out on walks, and especially when they see another dog. Then there is pulling and barking. Sally is slight in build and no match for the two dogs who have to be physically restrained by their collars and could so easily pull her over. Sidney’s hackles go up, and if he off lead he would dominate and maybe bite other dogs.

So, it’s the same story as with many of my clients of going back to basics and showing the owners how to teach their dogs that if they want to progress forward, it will only happen on a loose lead.  There is a direct correlation between dogs, tense on tight leads and being constantly corrected, being reactive to other dogs, and dogs walking calmly on a loose lead being chilled on seeing another dog. Sally’s work will take time and patience, but will be well worth it in the end. My clients that succeed are those who are consistent, where everyone who walks the dog is using the same approach, and who are prepared for it to take as long as it takes.

Sally has previously taken the view, which is opposite to my own, that exercising a dog for a sufficient number of hours will eventually calm him down; with Sidney the excessive exercise is proving to have the opposite effect, that of over-stimulating him.

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

Jack Who Can Open Doors

Handsome Black Labrador, JackI have just been to see another Jack, a two-year-old labrador was a rescue dog from Ireland. His owner told me before we met. He is a lovely dog. Just one big problem – he is uncontrollable when we meet other dogs – I try to walk him where ever I can to avoid other dogs, and it takes the enjoyment out of walking him.  He has pulled me so much that he has hurt my back. I would love to be able to walk with Jack and enjoy it

Jack pulls, lunges and barks at other dogs. Walk is uncomfortable, scary and stressful for both Jack and his lady owner. He is yanked back. He rushes at cats, dogs and squirrels.  When he sees other dogs he bites and grabs the lead.

So now I have shown Jack’s owner how to start the walk with a calm dog, and what to do to get Jack to trust her to look after him, how to get him to walk beside her just like there was no lead on at all, and to take no notice of other dogs.  It will take a while, but she will get there I know.

It is hard to give Jack boundaries, because Jack can open doors! He is a  kind and gentle dog with the six-year-old granddaughter, and enjoys her company.

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