Large Hand Over her Head. She Barks at People

Rusti is a tiny 13-month-old Miniature Daschund. She is wary of people. Too often an approaching person means a large hand over her head.

She looks so cute people feel compelled to touch her.

A looming person. A large hand.

Rusti barks at people who come into her house. She barks at people who approach the man’s car. On walks she may bark at an approaching person.

scared when a large hand goes over her headThe man has held her up to help a person touch her. She will try to escape over his shoulder. She may growl or even nip the hand.

Because, as people do, they feel that she should allow a person who is being friendly to touch her, her reaction can be embarrassing to them.

Understandably, being that small, Rusti can feel unsafe when someone looms with large hand outstretched, particularly when she’s trapped. She is a lot better when free and off lead.

The man takes Rusti to work with him and she stays in the car. He has an active job where he can keep an eye on her and regularly return to let her out.

Though fine to be left in the car, she spends much of the day looking out for approaching people. She gets very aroused and barks frantically at them to go away. Very often they come over. Sometimes a large hand may even come through the open window towards her.

Looking at the world through Rusti’s eyes.

They will now look at the world from Rusti’s perspective. They are learning to read her signals.

Her humans will do their best to help her out and avoid anything that scares her whenever they possible can. They will get her an igloo dog bed for the car and a couple of window blinds like one might use to shield a baby from the sun.

People won’t see her and she won’t see them.

If they help to avoid people getting too close to her, particularly preventing them from touching her, she should become a lot less wary and then she will have less need to bark at them, “Go Away”. This will build up trust in her humans.

Human beings must be puzzling and scary to a tiny dog. They touch her when they feel like it, they cuddle her, they move her about whenever they wish. She shares their food but they get angry when she helps herself.

Confusing!

Someone she doesn’t know puts a large hand out to touch her. We ourselves wouldn’t like that, would we. When she defends herself by growling or nipping she gets told off.

We expect our dogs to understand us and fit into our world without realising just how little we try to understand them and allow them their own feelings and preferences.

We should act as our dogs’ advocates. Rusti’s feelings are a lot more important than the feelings of a person, usually a stranger, who may want to touch her.  Can I pet your dog and why it’s okay to say no

 

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 Rusti 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)

Wary of People in Their Home

Two dogs who were picked up as strays

Basil and Rosie

The two stunning dogs of mixed breed, Basil and Rosie, recently came back to the UK with the couple who adopted them in Hong Kong where they had been picked up as strays or possibly street dogs. It’s a pity I didn’t get a better photo of them together.

As you can see, although they were now not barking or backing off anymore, both were looking away as I pointed my phone at them which I was trying to do whilst looking the other way.

As I entered the house, the gentleman was trying to corral the dogs down the passageway into the sitting room whilst also trying to keep them quiet – living in a flat they are conscious of their neighbours. I gave my rather large bag to the lady to carry as carrying a bag (like wearing a hat) can contribute to upsetting some dogs.

The barking stopped very quickly as I sat down, but they were both extremely wary. For a short while Basil was ready to bark again at me whilst Rosie backed away. I won them round with food and by making no effort to touch them when they did, soon, come to me.

The owners are particularly concerned because their dogs’ aggressive-sounding barking means that several friends simply won’t visit anymore. There is one close male friend in particular that the dogs don’t like. Apparently he always wears a baseball cap and he’s very tall which apart from the fact that dogs can be more scared of men anyway could perhaps contribute to their unease.

I suggested they had ‘people-food’ ready-prepared, small and tasty bits of food that they only use for when people come to the flat so the only way the dogs get access to this special treat is when people come in or move about.

By trying various different things we worked on a technique whereby I could walk about the room and the dogs would remain relaxed. They can then now do the same things when the friend comes this evening.

This involves, before the person starts to move, one of the owners maintaining their dogs’ attention by calling them over, asking them to sit in front of them and then gently holding onto them whilst feeding them ‘people-food’. By facing their owner the dogs would be turning their backs to the other person. Now the person can move freely about.

I found that once I was up and walking around the room the owner could release the dogs after a second or two and they were fine. This same technique would need to be used for a few seconds each time the person, having been sitting down, moved.

Fortunately these two dogs were not nearly as wary of people in their home as many dogs I go to and this wouldn’t work in more severe cases. It just suited these two. Every case and situation is a bit different.

brown dog

Basil

As always, the guests need training too. They should be asked to move slowly and casually, to give no eye contact to the dogs and when they arrive not to walk too directly or deliberately towards them or the owner. Instead, the owner should turn around and take the dogs with him so that the person follows. Until the dogs get comfortable with someone, they should try not to move too suddenly and to give warning before they stand up. The guest can drop or roll pieces of food.

In a very short while both dogs were actually eating out of my hand.

The barking and anxiety starts with the intercom bell. This is something they can work on easily. Repeatedly one of them can go downstairs and ring the bell while, as soon as the dogs hear it, they get food from the other person. Every time one of the owners either goes out or comes in, they can ring the bell. Because the bell will then only very occasionally mean someone is visiting it will no longer be a trigger, so when a caller is let in the door the dogs aren’t already pre-aroused.

Like everything to do with desensitising and counter-conditioning it takes a lot of repetitions and work. Unless they have a regular run of callers to get the dogs thoroughly at home with people coming and going, it may always need working on to some extent.

Their second issue which I shan’t discuss in much detail now is that Basil, in particular, ignores all calls to come back when he’s on a hunt. The other day he nearly got killed when a chase after a muntjac deer took him across a busy road, followed by Rosie. As a stray who probably had to rely upon hunting for food he will most likely have the chase in his blood.

They have only two safe options really which is hard because dog walks to many people are something where the dogs run free, getting plenty of exercise and doing their own thing. Now they should only ever let Basil off lead in places where there is no escape. If they want him to come back when called, they will need to put in months and months of recall work with Basil. What, after all, is in it for Jack to come back before he’s finished what he is doing? The man’s tone of voice wasn’t such that I, if I were a dog, would find sufficiently inspiring to tempt me to come back! I may not even hear him.

Recall is about much more than just training; it’s also about the dog’s relationship with the person who wants him to come back. To a dog with a high prey drive, it’s quite a challenge for someone to be more relevant, exciting and rewarding than a running muntjac or rabbit!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an aspect. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be very different to the approach I have worked out for Basil and Rosie. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

 

Being King Isn’t All it’s Cracked Up to Be

Giant Schnauzer is ver larger and very regalYesterday it was a Miniature Schnauzer and today a Giant Schnauzer!

Benson is very Big and very regal. He is magnificent – a really lovely boy, and a teenager! He runs the show. After being let outside in the morning he runs upstairs and leaps all over people in bed, may even hump them and may growl if removed. He jumps up and barks while his meals are being prepared (ignoring repeated commands to sit and wait). He jumps up and barks while they try to put his lead on to go out and then pulls like a train down the road until he reaches the park. When let off lead, he may jump up and grab his owners. There is nowhere indoors he is not allowed to go. Benson and the other dog can’t have toys or chews because Benson commandeers them and becomes possessive. He is becoming increasingly protective and wary both when meeting people outside and at home. His owners are getting worried because signs of aggression are increasing.

He has some major plus points. He is aloof and ignores other dogs, so no trouble there.  He can be very affectionate. He likes to keep an eye on his human family, so apart from one time when he was spooked by a bicycle and took it upon himself to run home, he stays near them when out. When called, he comes – but only to within a few feet. Then they have to go over to him! He is still an adolescent and is pushing his luck. The power takeover can creep up on people as they give way bit by bit until they suddenly realise they are being controlled by their dog!

For Benson there is a downside to being King in that without leadership he feels exposed and unprotected so easily scared of things like bikes, pushchairs, umbrellas and so on.  He also is scared when certain people, men mainly, look at him or lean over, approach directly or enter his personal space. A dog with convincing human leadership is much more relaxed and less touchy about his own personal space, less likely to worry about collecting and possessing trophies, jumping up, humping and dominating.

I read somewhere that a leader has a much greater need to lead than a follower has to follow. It can be a long job gently and fairly convincing a dog like this relinquish his responsibilites – to be more relaxed. Trying to do it through domination and force would make things a hundred times worse.

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