Alfie the Boxer

Friendly BoxerAlfie is a three and a half year old Boxer. He has lived with his new people for eight weeks now and has landed on his four white feet. His new owners have also struck lucky with Alfie!

His good points far outweight the difficulties. He is biddable, friendly and not overly excitable.

The problems they are having with Alfie are, like so many, out on walks. Alfie barks at people in a worrying manner. As they live in a village it’s impossible for them to stop and talk to anyone. He ‘squares up’ to other dogs they meet, though hasn’t shown aggression as such.  A  couple of incidents when he was off lead took them by surprise so they are now wary.

Anticipating problems transfers down the lead to the dog and merely reinforces his fears that other dogs and people could mean trouble. Correcting or using force when he does react doubly reinforces his fears by associating discomfort and stress with other dogs.

What is the alternative, you may ask? We look at it through the eyes of the dog!

Dog training classes can be too stressful for many reactive dogs because they are thrown into the deep end where proximity to other dogs is concerned. It can be noisy and there may be other reactive and scared dogs.  I have been there and I have done it. The whole thing needs to be taken back to basics and done differently.

People worry about ‘socialising’. If a dog isn’t adequately socialised with well-balanced dogs in the early weeks when he is naturally friendly and playful, it is much more difficult. Plunging a dog into threatening situations to ‘force him out of it’ is, at best, unkind. The dog needs to be gently stretched in a controlled fashion in order to improve, and learn to trust you to understand him and to be on his side.  You may never end up with a ‘sociable’ dog that wants to go and play with other dogs, but a dog that ignores them and is happy to be with you instead.

Most dogs who are a problem on walks are over-excited before they leave the house. Not so Alfie. He is calm as they leave the house and can walk nicely when there are no distractions. He is halfway there already.

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

Two Beautiful Keeshunds

Keeshund

Betta

Out of over 850 clients and thousands of dogs, I had never visited a Keeshund until yesterday when I visited two, Betta and Tilly. What beautiful looking dogs with wonderful natures.  They were originally bred in Holland as barge dogs – watch dogs and for catching rats. Consequently, one would expect them by nature to be protective.

Despite the dogs having Good Citizenship Bronze and Gold dog training certificates, out of class they are pullers on lead and Betta is wary and reactive to some people – boys in particular. She may also want to dominate certain dogs they meet. Her owner wants to make sure this side of her protective nature doesn’t escalate.  Due to their guarding nature, they bark a bit too much for the liking of the neighbours.

KeeshundTillyBetta, the older girl, can sometimes run her owner a merry dance – especially when she’s called in from the garden, and this ends up in a chase, great fun for the dog but not so much fun for the lady! Another favourite trick is to constantly ask for the back door to be opened, and then either not to go out at all, or to run out and come straight back in again!

These dogs seem to have a sense of humour, and that’s what we need too! A mix of outwitting them to think they are cooperating through choice, management by removing some of the barking opportunities, and by the lady behaving a little more like a leader should do the trick. In this way her wishes become relevant to the dogs, and part of the leadership role being that of protector.  Some work on the pulling on lead will need to be done.  The ‘training’ method using commands and correction, despite all the classes, is not working in real life.  These dogs need to learn that the only way to make any progress is when the lead is loose, so this will take some weeks of work – but not nearly as many weeks as their conventional training classes have taken so far.

Then walks will be enjoyable for all.

If you live in my area and would like help with a dog like Betta, please contact me.

UPDATE FIVE WEEKS LATER “I took the dogs out together for the first time today, both on their front-fastening harnesses, which fit well.  It was wonderful.  We went to Maulden Woods and I kept them both on lead.  They were lovely to walk together.  They mostly stayed on my left. And they understand the instruction “left-hand-side”.  The only time they pulled was when they saw something in the hedge, and that was completely controllable.  What a transformation!  Out with Betta yesterday we both saw a dog, Betta pricked up her ears and started forward, but we did a very smooth turn-around and came away, and she forgot immediately to make a fuss”.
This is only five weeks on! Give it a few more months and both dogs will be walk past other dogs and people without a fuss, and possibly by then have reliable recall even with other dogs about.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.