Loves People, Not So Good With Other Dogs

Milo is good with people but not good with other dogsMilo is quite unusual – a Dalmation Collie cross (called, I think, a Dolly!). Here he is in my demo harness which fitted him so well I left it behind.

His lady owner works from home with people calling frequently; Milo is polite and extremely well socialised. He loves people. If he had frequently met as many dogs from his early months as he had people, then I’m sure everything would be fine with them also.

Milo’s problems are other dogs on walks.

He pulls his owners down the road despite a tight lead and constant correction. If he sees other dogs he lunges and barks. He is then restrained and forced onwards towards or past the dog. Any apprehension he may have when encountering a dog will be intensified by his humans’ reactions.

He currently has either a short lead or a retractable lead. A loose longer lead attached to his chest will give him an entirely different sensation. No more being pulled back. If the lead goes tight, they won’t follow. They will encourage him to walk beside them through choice not force using reward and encouragement rather than force or scolding, and when they see other dogs they will react in such a way that he learns to have confidence in them (and they in him).

There was a very unfortunate incident the other day when, off lead, he met a dog coming round a corner and attacked it, injuring it badly, hence my visit. This must simply never happen again. Recall work is a priority for however long it takes, and Milo will lose his freedom meanwhile – limited by a ten metre long line.

Controlled and comfortable walks

Calling MILO COME is useless because he has learnt to ignore it until he is ready, so they will be using a whistle now. Seeing other dogs must now mean clock in with his humans.

Repeatedly using a whistle for recall games at home, rewarding him with something small but very tasty, they should eventually make running to them at the sound of the whistle an automatic reaction. That is how it has become with my own dogs. I now use it sparingly and I always make it worth their while to come straight away whatever they are doing.

It is hard to believe that the dog I met, and the dog you see in the picture, could behave in such an aggressive manner. Those dogs he has met in a controlled way and knows he’s fine with; otherwise I believe he thinks, ‘I will get them before they get me’.

German Shepherd. Barking Chases Dogs Away

Barking chases dogs awayIt was a treat to visit such a calm and friendly German Shepherd. Most that I’ve been to recently have had problems with people coming into their homes, but not 20-month-old Storm. She was chilled – and actually a lot more interested in the doggy smells on my bag and on my trousers than in me!

Storm makes very few demands on her owners, and they make few on her. She is biddable and obedient.

Barking chases dogs away

But, unfortunately, she is becoming increasingly reactive to other dogs they meet on walks and she has now injured a small terrier.

I don’t myself see this as a problem solely to do with dogs on walks. I feel this is a symptom and not the cause.

At home she has free access to the front gate and a lot of dogs walk by. She takes up her station there and flies at the gate in a territorial fashion whenever a dog goes past. To Storm, barking always chases dogs away – they always go after all.

When her owners go out she may be left outside on guard duty. Her stress levels will be continually rising.

In the car she has her head out of the window and barks at any dog she sees. Barking chases dogs away after all, even if in the car they are the ones moving away.

Rehearsing the behaviour

Storm is simply given too much opportunity to practise the undesirable behaviour. Scolding her or saying NO doesn’t help at all. She may stop temporarily, but it teaches her nothing. It doesn’t teach her that, as her dog parents and guardians, protection duty is their responsibility and not hers.

She’s not always reactive to every dog she meets when out however. It seems that she can tolerate so much, and then she will ‘go’.

Understandably, they try to walk her away from other dogs. Avoiding dogs altogether will get them nowhere of course – particularly as the only interaction she does get is negative – the aggression from behind their gate along with unplanned encounters. She is usually either chastised or she is left to get on with it by herself.

Storm has a very close bond with her gentleman owner in particular. Dealt with sensitively, given time and patience, I’m sure he will bring her around. Opportunities for guard duty should be cut to the minimum, and when she barks she should be helped, not scolded.

Opportunity to be left to practise barking and chasing dogs away from the garden should be avoided.

Such a good dog

Because she is generally so good, they are too relaxed.

Out on walks she needs to be more under control with less freelancing. They now have techniques to work on that will gradually get Storm more used to other dogs whilst connecting with her owners, to be calm around them. This work has to start at a distance within her comfort threshold – before she begins to react. Once over that threshold, she will become deaf and incapable of learning.

Not Dominance but Lack of Self-Control

The Labrador is a friendly affectionate dog lacking self control


The three beautiful dogs gave me a polite greeting when I arrived and it would have been hard to guess there were any problems. Fourteen-year-old Border Collie Dizzy is no trouble at all, Yorkie Waffle, age 4, does more or less what he wants but that causes no problems really – but the one who is challenging is three-year-old Labrador Blake.

Despite training and tricks, Blake lacks self-control. He is becoming increasingly edgy with dogs when out and he pulls on the lead. When all three dogs arrive home and rush into the garden, Blake will persistently hump poor Dizzy (he’s castrated). He does this also after he’s been hosed down after a walk.

These two dogs are no trouble at all

Dizzy and Waffle

However, on the occasions when walks end on lead, the humping seldom happens. They hadn’t recognised the connection (it’s hard when you are living inside a situation to see it objectively). They thought for some reason Blake was being ‘dominant’. Charging back into the garden, off lead and without boundaries, Blake can’t cope with the whole uncontrolled thing so he takes it out on poor Dizzy – who sits down! The end of a walk is the culmination of too much excitement, pulling, freedom and worrying about other dogs, and he has a build-up ready to overflow.

A walk that ends with dogs in a very high state has probably been too stimulating.  It’s certainly not done the job it was meant to do. You know when you have got it right because when the dog comes home he has a long drink and then lies down, satisfied. No humping, charging about or unwinding.

Blake is a lovely, biddable dog. Scolding him for humping only adds to his frustrations. Calling him away with encouragement and praise for disciplining himself along with something else to do to redirect his angst is the right way to go. There are a lot of behaviours he could be offering that are incompatible with humping. Lying on his bed with something special to chew is one of them. Meanwhile, he needs to be de-stressed in every way possible.

As with so many of the dogs I meet, walks need to be completely re-thought. It takes a different mind-set and a load of patience, that’s all. When asked what they do when their dog pulls, people usually say the do things like stopping, turning around, saying Sit or Heel, jerking the lead and so on. I ask “well – you have been doing this for three years, has it worked”? No.

So it’s obvious they need to do something completely different about walking Blake. Walks need to start off in a calm controlled fashion, and they need to end in a calm controlled fashion.

They are surrounded by fields and perfect dog walking countryside, but walks are no longer fun and the lady can’t walk all three together any more which is a shame.

A couple of weeks later I received this message: “I have been doing what you have suggested and the change in Blake has been dramatic. I take him on walks on his own and it is working brilliantly ….. He is really learning. Thank you again. I have also been playing with the dogs individually whilst the other is in the kitchen – no humping! Problem solved! I am really pleased with his performance in such a short time”.

Fierce Bull Mastiff is a Big Baby

In a very short time Millie had settled5-year-old Bull Mastiff Millie is always shut away when people come to the house due to her seemingly aggressive reaction to them, so they were worried before I came. This is Catch 22 because without exposure and habituation in a controlled way she will never get used to people. Always shutting her away will get them nowhere.

Anyway, within a very short time I took the photo on the left! It proves what can be done if all the humans send out the right signals. On the right the big baby is on the sofa having a cuddle.

Millie is too scared to go for walks near home. When her lead comes out she may run and hide. She shakes.The big baby is having a cuddle on the sofa

If she is told ‘To the Car’ she will pull frantically to get there, but once in the car she is fine; walking further from home is okay apart from a tendency to rush barking at people and other dogs when she’s off lead. She is regularly walked around town, unfazed, and into shops. She also goes on organised big group dogs walks and behaves perfectly.  It is when they are near her own territory or in her house, when there are only occasional people or dogs, or when they appear suddenly that she reacts defensively by rushing them and barking.

Where lead walks near home are concerned, she first needs desensitising even to her lead bing picked up – and I suggest a special front-D-ring harness rather than a Halti so that she’s more comfortable. This needs working on in tiny steps. First she needs to feel happy in the presence of the lead or trailing it around the house. Next walking around the house on lead. Next the garden. Next in and out of the gate – and so on. Done several times a day a few minutes at a time, using encouragement and rewards, she should soon be walking around outside the house on a loose lead.

Millie has the makings of a really brilliant dog if understood right.

A couple of weeks later Millie is happily going for local walks. Here is a video!

Charlie Doesn’t Feel Safe

From her owners’ perspective, adorable Bichon-Maltese mix Charlie is given everything a dog could possibly want for a happy life. They always thought the moBichon Charlie is yawning because he feels uneasyre excited she is the more joyful she feels. From Charlie’s perspective she is living a life punctuated by extreme stress and chronic anxiety.

Deservedly, Charlie is adored by the family – a lady, her daughter and her two granddaughters. By the end of my visit they began to see things in a different light. See the yawn? She is showing unease at being looked at while I took the photo.

When they greet Charlie she is ‘beyond excited’ and they fire her up with vigorous attention – so much so that she may pee. They believe just because she’s so excited that it’s good for her. The lady always thought that Charlie loved to go out in the car. Charlie’s excited and jumps in willingly, but then she is barking at people, dogs and traffic. She is left in the car when the lady shops because ‘she loves it’ even though she’s quite happy left at home. The entire time she is barking at anything she sees that moves. Beautiful Bichon Frise

Walks are horrendous. She pulls and barks at people, dogs and cars. It’s constant. They take her into the town where she is a ‘nightmare’, going for people’s legs; Mostly she is taken by car (barking all the way) to the park where she and her nervous owner are all the time looking about in near panic should a person or dog appear and if she’s off lead she will run back to the car or even try to find her way home.

Despite all this and like many other people – the lady feels that as a good and loving dog owner she must make Charlie go through this nightmare every day, and feels guilty if walks are missed. I would argue that Charlie’s mental and psychological health is more important than walks. Working on her confidence when out of the house will take a lot of time and patience.

I have recently watched a new DVD by famous trainer/behaviourist Suzanne Clothier called ‘Arousal, Anxiety and Fear’. She says she always mentally asks the dog, ‘How is this for you?’ She says ‘Make your dog feel safe’.

We put our dogs in situations where we think they are safe – but does the dog feel safe?

Loving their dogs as they do, why do so few people not consider, ‘How is this for you’ and help them out?

‘Oldies Club’ Rescue Staffie Has a Home

Tommy has landed himself a comfy sofaTommy is delightful – a small Staffie X aged eight. He has had a hard life but landed on his feet a few days ago with two older gentlemen.

I am helping them to start off right with Tommy – a fresh beginning for him.

They may have a challenge not to spoil him too much in the early days. It’s much better to give a dog some rules and boundaries so that he knows what’s what from the outset. It will help him to feel secure. He also needs to be allowed some independence to avoid him developing separations issues.

There are however big problems with other dogs on walks when Tommy is on lead, and I suspect they were trying to do too much too soon. He will feel trapped on lead, in a strange environment with people he doesn’t know well. This needs to be taken back to basics, loose lead and calmer walking established, and plenty of standing and watching the world go by with the men knowing exactly how to react when a dog appears.

Because he is using aggression to protect himself, they suggested using a muzzle. I see it like this: Imagine a large gorilla is walking you on a chain through a safari park where you know there may be lions lurking. You are trapped, uncomfortable and helpless, all your attempts to pull and escape painfully thwarted. When a lion appears in the distance, rather than putting in some distance the gorilla yanks you to his side and keeps walking towards the lion – jerking the chain if you protest. This is an exaggerated version of how Tommy probably feels when out and on lead. Muzzling him? It’s like the gorilla has made you even more helpless by tying your hands behind your back.

Tommy needs to be able to trust his walker, and his walker needs to know how to react when other dogs are about.

Five weeks later: “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) and I stood in front the window facing the dogs.  They came bounding up to me, 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”.
A couple of months after my visit: ‘Yesterday was two months to the day. The difference is amazing’.

Jack Russell Reactive With All Dogs

Jack Russell Rambo is not suited to his nameYesterday I visited Rambo, a dear little Jack Russell and not at all suited to his name. He is now three and came from the RSPCA a year ago. Like many Jack Russells he’s very active, but a little too restless I feel. He’s obedient and affectionate and the the family loves him dearly, and the couple are doing their best to give him fair boundaries, sufficient stimulation and exercise.

He is looked after the couple’s parents during the day when they are at work, at their own house, so Rambo has two different environments, and there needs to be continuity in how he is treated. His persistent jumping up on everyone is a bit too much, but it would be very hard to stop unless everyone deals with it the same way whether family or visitors (and this isn’t by commands or scolding), otherwise it would simply confuse him and make matters worse so may be impractical in the circumstances.

Against a background of being already excitable and fairly easily scared by things at home, walks can be very stressful due to his fear of other dogs. Who knows what his past life consisted off, but his extreme reactivity to all other dogs seems to indicate that he didn’t have good experiences in the past.  As soon as he sees any dog his hackles rise, he lunges and he barks. His defensive behaviour may attract the attention of off-lead dogs and if they approach him it is a nightmare. Poor Rambo, of course, is trapped on lead – it would be far too risky letting him off.

Rambo really isn’t a good name! It suggests tough and brave, but this poor little dog is plain scared. He first of all needs to learn to walk nicely (who ever sees a dog calmly walking on a loose lead, minding his own business, suddenly exploding when spotting another dog?). Avoidance of close encounters for now is key. Rambo needs lots of controlled exposure to other dogs at a sufficient distance not to worry him, whilst his owners behave in a way that convincing ‘leaders’ would. Opportunities can be engineered. ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’ as they say.

He most likely will never get to actually playing with other dogs, but being calm around them and ignoring them whilst relying on his humans to look after him would be a realistic, if long-term, goal. Things over time will slowly but surely improve if the humans stick to the plan.

 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.

Springy Springer Spaniel

Springer Sophie can't settleSophie is a 7-year-old Springer Spaniel. She is stressed and hyperactive for much of the time, panting, pacing and crying. This can continue for hours and she only really settles within the confines and restrictions of her crate. It can be very tiring for her family. Sophie is also friendly and gentle. She’s adorable but for some reason troubled. Possibly some of it is genetic as apparently she was even worse when she was younger and they have had help from two or three trainers over the years. Instead of improving she is now getting worse.

Because out on walks she has taken to literally screaming and lunging whenever she sees one of the many cats in the neighbourhood or other dogs, and because her pulling on lead is such a strain, she no longer is taken on walks. All that ‘training’, along with having tried most gadgets they can get such as head halters, various leads and harnesses, has not stopped Sophie pulling. This is because she still wants to pull! I would be willing to guarantee, if they put in the time and effort to do it my way, that she will eventually be walking nicely and willingly beside them on a loose lead, not wanting to pull. I have many many successful cases to prove this. Time and patience are the two operative words – along with knowing the technique. Sophie now is taken out so seldom that the outside world is simply a sensory overload of smells, action, sSpringerSophieounds and potential danger.

Calm walks don’t start at the door, they start with a calm dog at home who has impulse control before encountering all the added stimulation of the outside world – so at home is where it starts. Sophie’s stress levels need to be reduced dramatically and she needs to learn to focus on her owners and what they are asking of her. To achieve this, they will need to earn her respect and attention by how they themselves behave with her.

Sophie is a clever dog but a frustrated dog, with no outlet for her energy or her brains. This will now change (I hope).

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

Blue Merle Sheltie Only Feels Safe Indoors

Blue Merle Sheltie is a gentle but easily scared dogEight-year-old Robbie spent the first seven and a half years of his life never outside a utility room and garden, with virtually no human company. Six months ago his previous owner went into a home and Robbie then came to his new owners.

Just imagine how scared he must have been encountering everyday things, people and other dogs. They have come a very long way with him in six months, but have met a plateau, hence my visit.

Since all his life after leaving his litter Robbie has been within the same four walls, just with open door to a garden, it’s not surprising that the only place he is really comfortable is indoors, in the house. He is just OK in the garden if the door is open and he can beat a retreat if something scares him – like next door’s dog barking. He would prefer to be alone indoors than out in the garden with his owners. Out on walks, if panicked, it’s like he doesn’t even know them any more. He just wants to get home.

They have work to do – because he needs to look to them for protection and guidance. They need to win his trust. At present all he really trusts is the safe environment of home.

He really is the most gorgeous, gentle little dog. Sadly, he is very arthritic at a relatively young age and is on a mixture of medication so he has discomfort to contend with also.

Out on walks Robbie is permanently uneasy and looking about and behind. As they approach the main road he is near panic, but like many people they have believed that it is necessary to keep going. If he sees another dog or a vehicle spooks him, he is twisting around on his lead and wanting to bolt. Naturally, the lead will be causing pain to his neck and this negative association with other dogs can’t be good.

I believe it’s now a case of backing off and starting again. First and foremost, he needs to be able to walk around near the house with no traffic or dogs or people in a calm and happy way, sniffing and exploring doggy fashion, before they can go any further. This could take a while. Then things need to be introduced very slowly indeed, all the while not stepping over his threshold of tolerance. How the owners behave is key. Robbie’s instinct is to bolt, and failing that, to freeze. Would a wise parent force his family into trouble if it could be avoided? No! They need to earn Robbie’s trust before they will make any real progress.

They will get there, I’m sure, but it will take time. Although they have already come a long way, you can’t undo eight years in a few weeks.

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

Fergus and William’s Owner Very Pleased

Whippets Fergus and William are like new dogsJust under four weeks ago I visited William and Fergus – Whippet brothers that fought (their story is a few posts down).  Walks were a nightmare as the excitable William would redirect his stress onto Fergus, especially if they came across a cat – to such an extent that they were muzzled on walks. Both dogs would pull. They might fight at the gate and they might fight in the car if they saw a cat.  As in most cases, there were other issues that contributed to the problems the lady was having with her lovely dogs.

Their story deserves another write-up, because it is a perfect example of how progress is closely linked to how carefully, calmly and diligently the owners stick to their plan and apply themselves.

I have just received a lovely email, together with this picture of the two dogs:

“I’m really pleased to be emailing you to tell you how well behaved the boys have been this week (in fact I’m bursting to tell you!). I want others to know that this really does work – and I am enjoying it and enjoying my dogs even more than I did before.  It is such a pleasure to walk well behaved dogs!

William has at long last put some weight on, and I put this down to the better food that you recommended and the fact that he is not anxiously running about anymore.

Last Sunday we went for a walk along the canal, which was very busy. I walked both dogs together, they were excellent. When we started off William was over excited and trying to rush ahead, I did the work and after about 10 mins and only covering about 10 metres he finally calmed down and we were on our way with two very well behaved dogs. The best bit was when we approached a couple sitting on the bank next to their barge, they had five (yes five) Italian Greyhounds basking on the grass beside them along with two CATS!!!   I was astounded at how well behaved my boys were, we stopped to speak to the owners for a few minutes (the cats moved on to the bow of the boat) and either the  boys didn’t see them (although not sure how they could have missed them) or they really are settling and feeling more relaxed (I know I am).

Further on we let them off individually and as seems to be the norm now they came back when called and were generally little stars.  A bit further on we had to walk through a field with sheep in it.  Once again the dogs were brilliant and I was whooping with joy, they walked through the field and showed no interest at all (the sheep were very helpful and didn’t run away) about two fields on we met sheep again, these sheep did run off and William got a little excited (but I think that was more about the sheep poo that he was trying to hoover up) so I did a little bit of ‘lets go’ and once again he calmed down and we continued.  When we arrived back in the village we met a cat – they definitely saw it and their ears went up, I turned round immediately and walked back down the road, once they seemed settled I turned back again and walked calmly back to the car – amazing, this would never have happened before and I would have been a nervous wreck.

Its amazing that in almost 4 weeks we have had no aggression between the dogs, I am feeling so much more confident.

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