Jumping Up on People. Barking at Other Dogs.

Yesterday I visited a young couple with three dogs. All three were rescued from Bosnia and have come here from Italy where the couple used to live. One had been dumped from a car and the other two most likely had been strays on the streets.

Before I arrived and based on previous experience, I had anticipated meeting three dogs with a mixture of fear issues. Problems with living in a small house and feeling threatened by the proximity of someone they don’t know.

How wrong I was!

These young people must have the magic touch.

They rescued four-year-old Staffie Luna first. She is extremely friendly, too much so in a way. She did a lot of jumping up at me and jumping on me when I sat down.

Too much jumping up

Luna and Thor

The next dog they took in was Thor, a lovely fluffy dog who looks a bit like a Poodle mixed with a Schnauzer or Tibetan Terrier. He, too, is four. Like Luna he is friendly and well adjusted in the house, with some jumping up and rather too much pawing for attention.

Finally they adopted Zeus eighteen months ago. Zeus is a four-year-old Husky. He had been dropped from a moving car and is unsurprisingly now terrified of being in the car.

When he first arrived he was more or less shut down. He kept well away from his new owners. Now he’s one of the most chilled dogs I have met.

Zeus’ only has problems when they encounter other dogs when out. 

Jumping and pestering

The couple wants help on two fronts. They want to be able to have friends round without the dogs jumping all over them – to be able to talk and eat with them in peace. They also need all three dogs to be better when encountering other dogs on walks.

We started with the jumping up and general pestering. The couple themselves don’t mind it, but if they don’t want them jumping and pestering friends, then manners must start with themselves.

Zeus

So far it’s all been about STOPPING the dogs jumping up and pestering.

They even had someone from Barkbusters who advocated water bombs for their reactivity to dogs and for jumping up. Did it work? No.

It is unacceptable and unethical to punish dogs for being friendly or for being scared. It is particularly risky to consider frightening dogs from their background. Thankfully they don’t seem to have suffered and it’s not something their savvy owners were willing to do.

We are now concentrating on teaching the dogs what IS wanted. There must be nothing to be gained from unwanted behaviour and all to be gained from desired behaviour. We used clicker. We used food and we used the attention the dog was seeking but only with feet on the floor and not while pestering and pawing.

The couple should also compensate the dogs by initiating attention when they are calm thus further reinforcing what they want.

Hello face to face.

These lovely dogs are only jumping up because they are so friendly which is lovely really. They like to say hello face to face. They can still do so if people lower themselves.

Dog-encounters on walks are a bit more complicated. Each dog has different needs and problems which include pulling on lead and which we will take separately. I haven’t included this in my story, but Luna, Thor and Zeus would benefit from some freedom off lead from time to time.

I suggest they find a dog-safe field that is rented out by the hour so the dogs can sometimes run free. 

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 these lovely dogs 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)

Will Chocolate Labrador Accept the New Puppy?

Chocolate Labrador is not good with other dogs and they are soon getting a new puppy Chocolate Labrador Coco is ten years old now, and they are getting a new Chocolate Labrador puppy in a few weeks’ time.

The owners readily admit they didn’t do enough to socialise him with other dogs and he barks frantically at them – GO AWAY! I don’t myself see him as aggressive at all. He is scared of them. He has had three incidents when an off lead dog has come too near but no blood has been drawn. He has acted with self-control by doing no more than was necessary to stop the dog’s unwelcome attention which I say is good, not bad. On each occasion he himself had been trapped on a lead held by a panicking human and the dog in question had been off lead on not under control (a much too common story).

Doing what they felt was best, in their ignorance they called in someone from a ‘Home Dog Training’ franchise. I can only speak from evidence of other dogs I have worked with that had been further damaged by this organisation’s bullying tactics. Poor Coco was set up with another dog to fail – deliberately pushed well out of his comfort zone and then she threw water bombs at him! This went on until he was quiet near the dog. He simply shut down.

As one might imagine, this has done nothing at all to make him feel better around other dogs, rather the opposite. I find it amazing that anyone could imagine that punishment can cure fear! It can be no more than a quick temporary fix. The poor gentleman followed this advice just once himself and felt so bad he never did it again thankfully.

Now they will be doing the very opposite – finding Coco’s comfort threshold and instead of pushing him over it and then bombing him with water, they will work on doing nice things like feeding and playing, the ultimate aim being for Coco to see that the presence of another dog brings good things, not bad.  As far as is possible he will now be kept at a distance where he feels comfortable, and this gap should gradually reduce in time as he learns to trust his owners.

Understandaby, they are worried about how Coco will react to the new puppy. They have a few weeks to get him used to a few changes at home before the puppy arrives. We looked at the logistics. When puppy comes I shall call again to help them over the transition and to start puppy off on the right foot.