Desperate. Her Puppy Jumps Up, Snaps and Barks at Her

“I am desperate!

“….I love my puppy so much and don’t know what to do. She bites, jumps up and snaps at me. I can’t eat in front of her. I could go on.

Skye likes to watch the dogs on television. I watch Victoria Stilwell’s programme. That’s how I found out about you.”

Desperate because of puppy's behaviourSkye is a four-month-old Westie.

It’s very easy to get into a spiral of despair when everything we do seems to make a puppy more wild or rough. All the time we are trying to stop the puppy doing things she gets worse.

The most dangerous is being underfoot and liable to trip the lady over which, due to her age, could be particularly disastrous.

Through different eyes.

The lady is now completely changing her perspective. She is looking at her puppy through different eyes. Instead of trying to counter unwanted behaviours with scolding and discipline, saying ‘no’ and getting cross, she will constantly look for and reinforce those behaviours that she does want. She already no longer feels desperate.

How does a dog or puppy know what we DO want? Ted Talk.

The clever puppy soon learnt that a click meant ‘Yes!’ Each time she jumped up, instead of reacting we waited. When she was back on the floor she earned a click – and food. This ‘brain’ work is exactly the kind of stimulation she needs.

We are also teaching Skye alternative behaviours that are incompatible with those things she now does that the lady doesn’t want her to do.

Where circling feet and grabbing trousers is concerned, she will be taught ‘Away’, running after a rolling piece of food. This way the lady can keep safe. She just has to make sure she has food on her for now.

We ask ourselves, what is it that drives the puppy to wildly jump up, bark at the lady, snap in her face when she bends over her, scratch her legs till she gets attention and so on? What is it that is causing the lady to feel so desperate?

Puppy over-arousal is at the bottom of it. Cutting back activities that stir her up and replacing with activities that use her brain and natural instincts like chewing and sniffing will help.

A little tornado!

It’s totally natural for a puppy to be excitable and have bouts of wild behaviour where she’s like a little tornado. Pressure has built up in her that has to explode somewhere! If she was with her siblings they would riot together and it would soon be over.

One great idea is a ‘box of tricks’ that Skye can go to town on and wreck. Biscuits are hidden in screwed up paper, food cartons, milk containers, loo roll tubes, old towels etc. The cardboard carton itself can be attacked.

If we want our puppy to be gentle and calm with us, then that is how we need to be with her. Friends and family need also to treat her calmly – no wild greetings and pumping her up.

Having a motivated puppy leads to good behaviour.

The lady should always reward her when she asks her to come to her.

It’s much better to call Skye away from something she shouldn’t be doing or chewing, rewarding her and giving her something acceptable to do. Much better than saying ‘No’ and scolding – trying to stop her.

This means having food in a pouch or pocket all the time for now.

No more feeling desperate.

From email a week later: ‘Skye is so much calmer I can’t believe how much we’ve achieved in a few days. The biting has just about stopped. I’m amazed that she appears to be getting the message so quickly.’ (It’s not so much about her getting the message, but the lady is communicating with her in a way she understands a bit better). 

 

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 Skye 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 puppy may not be appropriate, and in many cases the owner needs training personally. Being able to see a professional demonstrate and react appropriately to a puppy’s behaviour can be necessary. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Help page)

Depression? Huge Adjustments

Westie suffers from depression

Mitzie eventually lay down

Mitzie’s behaviour points to depression.

Only after I came home did I get the eureka moment. Westie Mitzie’s odd behaviours, obviously as a result of huge changes to her life, were consistant with depression.

They have had the little four-year-old dog for only six days. They are still getting to know her and she has a lot of adjusting to do.

There isn’t much known about her past, but when they picked her up she had seemed bright, confident and happy. She was also very dirty and in bad need of grooming. Her yellow-stained feet suggested that she was constantly caged or kenneled and having to stand in her own urine. After being groomed, she then had a thorough vet check, her first injection and was micro-chipped.

They took her for a walk.

So far, so good. Hindsight as ever being wonderful, perhaps this was all just too much too soon.

Her behaviour then changed, literally overnight. The first night she had slept through the night but the second night she cried when left.

The next day she refused to go out for a walk.

By the fifth night she howled and cried for ages.

depression

Mitzie paces the perimeter of the room she’s in. Round and round and round, always in an anti-clockwise direction. My guess is that she had been caged in a small area for hours on end if not all the time and was driven mad with boredom. Much like a confined zoo or circus animal she would circle.

It’s like she is literally trying to ‘unwind’. The more she does it, the more she will do it. I suggest they interrupt by gently calling her, rewarding for coming (fortunately she loves her food) and then doing something else with her briefly. This is hard because a symptom of depression is that she’s lethargic and lacking in interest, but at least she still will take food.

Mitzie’s body language from the moment I entered was really unusual. She stood still a lot, she moved slowly, tail and head down. She back away. The door of the room was open and she could have run away had she so wished. The only things she did with any purpose was to circle the room. I described her manner as distant, careful and worried. When they put their hand out over her head to touch her she shrank back. If her chest was tickled she stood still but showed no sign of either liking it or wanting to avoid it.

She has had a few accidents indoors, unsurprising if not having had the opportunity to get out of her living area for quite a long time. I also read that one sign of depression in dogs may be lacking the drive to try to go out.

The one thing that does get a reaction apart from meals, is being left – most particularly when the gentleman leaves the room.

I have a theory about depression happening when life suddenly becomes good, based on my own childhood. I was very unhappy at a boarding school and a few days after I went to a much nicer place, thinking I was in heaven, I suddenly developed a psychiatric problem that today would have been diagnosed as depression. It was like, as soon as I could relax and worry no longer and my defenses were down, the black devil was free to ride in.

Little Mitzie has really landed on her feet. She lives with a very kind and caring couple in a peaceful environment. The change in her life being so sudden and enormous, this is all to do with her adjusting. Meanwhile, she should be allowed to make her own choices and have a predictable routine. Pressure in terms of trying to get her to react and giving too much attention should be relaxed. Picking her up to get her to go out or to her bed should be avoided where possible as this takes away her choice – she will be able to walk because she is still motivated by food. Going out on walks just isn’t important at the moment.

Here is a quote from a friend of mine who works for Hounds First Sighthound Rescue (the breed is irrelevant of course):

“On the first day it’s like they are running on adrenaline and then seem to crash. We give them their own space such as a crate, covered in a blanket, and let them do things in their own time.  Obviously if dogs are in urgent medical need we get them to the vet but everything else is left for a good week to two weeks until they start to unwind. We always say that they are either very good or at the other end of the scale shut down for 2-3 weeks, then you get all the unwanted behaviours appear, then after that they start to adjust and this can take months or even years”.

One thing is certain. If receiving love has anything to do with the speed of her rehabilitation, then Mitzie should throw off her depression before too long.

About three weeks later: “She seems much happier. Wags her tail to greet us, plays with her Kong toy, chews on her hide bone chew, likes sitting in the garden.  We go for a short walk around the church and she trots happily with her tail up. Does not circumnavigate the extension or garden anymore (no more pacing in circles)…….Her coat looks a lot better and she has put on a little weight.  Overall she is a happier looking dog……We are also aware that there is still a long way to go as we are still working on leaving her alone for short periods but this is improving. We think she realises that life is better with us!!”

Westie Barks at the TV

Westies sleeping togetherIsla, now fifteen months old, started life having been left out in a garden for much of the time, barking. Consequently when the lady took her into her family six months ago the little dog had learnt to bark non-stop. The other Westie, Hamish, began to join in!

Although things are not nearly so bad now after the work the lady has already put in, the most disruptive part of Isla’s barking repertoire is barking at the TV.

She’s wary when the TV is on, but if she sees or hears and animal on TV she goes mental. Hamish backs her up by joining in. In a way, so do the family when they shout at the dogs to stop.

The barking in other aspects of the dogs’ lives should be addressed appropriately so they cease to get so much practice! If barking gets the gentleman to open the door in the morning, then barking is proved to work. If barking when something comes through the door drives the postman away (or so they think), then again, barking works. If barking at a neighbour when they are in the garden results in them being told BE QUIET and maybe chased around the garden, then barking is reinforced.

I take a psychological approach. If barking is an alarm call, should not we, as the ‘parents’, be taking responsiblity for the perceived danger rather than scolding or joining in?

Westies look upHamish is fine with the TV when Isla is out of the room, so it’s Isla who needs a great deal of desensitisation. This takes patience so would best be done during the day by the lady when the family isn’t wanting to watch TV.  Nothing is more infuriating when you want to watch something and a dog barks at the TV.

It’s surprising how many more dogs I go to that do bark at the TV now – the huge HD screens I believe are the problem.

To start with the lady can work on just the picture – no sound and no animals. Then introduce sound. Then silent animals. Then no picture but animal sounds. Then very soft sounds with pictures and animals…. and so on. It could be a long job.

At present the dear little dog deliberately looks away from the TV. This needs to be rewarded. She also may take herself off to her crate in the other room. I would like to try her crate in the sitting room but out of view of the TV, and to teach her to take herself into it when she feels anxious.

The two young dogs have plenty of exercise and sensible stimulation and they love to play together. They are fed the best nutrition available and everything else is in their favour, so I’m sure they will conquer little Isla’s fears of the ‘monsters in the box’ if takcochranen slowly.

Lovely message and photo on Facebook – seven months later:  ‘This is my two watching tv right now. Actually I’m watching and they’re snoozing. Theo, you’ll remember how reactive Isla was when you came to us a few months ago.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Hamish and Isla, which is why I don’t go into exact detail details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

A Dog and a New Baby

WestieAlfieNine-year-old Westie Alfie’s predictable life has been turned on its head – the couple’s first grandchild has arrived on the scene.

The new baby grunts, snuffles and cries. The family that previously saved all their cuddles for him, now instead cuddle and hold this strange-smelling alien – an animal maybe?

Alfie is fixated with small prey, and squirrels live in the trees by their home. He spends much of his day on ‘squirrel-watch’ when not watching out for the disembodied human heads that pass behind the fence at the back of the garden.

Alfie barks and he barks. Squirrels and people always go away when he barks. It works in the end. But barking doesn’t work in driving away this new being – and it’s not for lack of trying.

If the people don’t do something, they will lose out on visits with their baby granddaughter whose mother is understandably concerned. They initially tried ‘comforting’ and spoiling Alfie which made no difference at all, and now they scold and put him out of the room.

Alfie is part of their family and they don’t want to exclude him. They don’t like to see him so distressed.

Actually, little Alfie normally calls the tune and this has been no problem at all – until now.  He now needs to dance to their tune a little! He needs to cooperate willingly and be taught happy things to do that are incompatible with barking at baby.

We chopped up small bits of cheese.

Alfie morphed into a focussed and willing little dog when he realised there was something in it for him! You’d never believe that he hadn’t been asked to do things for years. He loved it.

They have foundation work to put in before actually working with the baby. The brainwork, the exercises and the food rewards will together help him to associate baby with good stuff.

He also needs to be prevented from so much ‘go-away’ barking in general. They need to keep him away from squirrel-watch (which he ‘enjoys’) and boundary barking as far as possible, and when he does break into barking they will deal with it immediately in a positive fashion. After all, barking at the baby isn’t so very different.

We have a plan broken into small increments to get him accepting the baby, starting with a crying doll that they have. He shouldn’t be pushed beyond what he can cope with. It takes as long as it takes. The baby lives nearby and can be introduced very slowly for very short periods – starting when she’s asleep and in her pram.  Nice things will happen when Alfie is near the pram with the sleeping baby, thus building up positive associations (anxiety and scolding having done just the opposite).  As soon as the baby stirs they will implement those exercises that they  have been working on.

They need to keep Alfie under threshold, meaning that they do their best to pre-empt any reactivity by separating baby and dog. He won’t be ready for the baby to be carried around or nursed – or crying – for a while, but they will get there with patience.  Whilst playing safe, all humans must remain relaxed or Alfie will pick up on their anxiety.

Slowly slowly, little and often should do the trick.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Alfie, which is why I don’t go into all 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 – most particularly where babies or young children are involved. 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).

Clever Westie Needs More to Do

WestieFraserOh Joy! This was one clever little dog.

Eighteen-month Westie Fraser that I went to yesterday lives with a couple and their 3-year-old son. He has two different traits, both of which result in toileting indoors.

When the little boy is up and about Fraser can become very amped-up. The child is bright, talkative and energetic just as little boys should be, and he is very hands-on with the dog. Mostly it is a lovely relationship, but at times I feel it gets a bit too much for Fraser, who, during the day can be displaying stress-related behaviours whereas in the evening, with the little boy in bed, dad at home and less happening outside, he is altogether a more peaceful little dog.

Fraser has developed a sequence of behaviours beginning with his hearing or seeing something outside the sitting room window and ends with his toileting on the floor. They live on a corner so there is plenty passing by.  Fraser first starts to bark, he carries on being agitated and barking for several minutes, then he starts pacing and compulsively sniffing the floor. His agitation ends with him either peeing or pooing – or both.

The other thing he does that also results in toileting is in the kitchen when they are busy cooking or doing something with the little boy. Fraser’s not getting their attention – they will be ignoring his usual squeaking and whining (something that usually ends in getting what he wants), so he pees – or poos. He may even look at them as he does so. Although they don’t scold him as such, he certainly gets a reaction! Whatever they are doing stops for a while.

When he is left all alone in the kitchen at night time or when they are out, the place is always clean so this backs up my theory. At most other times his squeaking and whining at them will get him the desired result.

The bottom line I feel is that Fraser doesn’t have enough to occupy his brain so he’s fairly frustrated. I thought we would just try some clicker work to see how he got on. In the past he would sit and stay on request but he refused to lie down.

This little genius got the hang of earning clicks (hence food) in no time at all. He was lying down/getting up/lying down repeatedly, really chuffed with himself.  The couple also caught on very quickly and soon the lady was teaching him to touch her hand (‘touch’) and to look into her eyes (‘watch me’). The options are endless.

We now have a tool for interrupting the alarm-barking routine and teach him to do something else instead – which this morning the lady told me is already working. The other thing they will do is to put static plastic window frosting on that window so he can’t see out.

So far as whining for attention is concerned, he needs to realise in all other situations as well as when they are busy in the kitchen, that it doesn’t work. He will actually be getting far more attention and mental stimulation, but not instigated always by himself, and certainly not as a result of whining and squeaking.

The lady will also be clicker training the little boy with Smarties (and the word Yes instead of clicking so as not to confuse the dog)! She will reward him when he gives the dog space, when he lets him eat in peace and so on.

I was really excited at how quickly this little dog picked things up, and the couple were amazed. We actually carried on for far longer than I would normally without a break, and he still wasn’t ready to stop. There are all sorts of things he can learn to do.

Fraser has a very rosy future and I’m sure it won’t be long before their floors are clean!

Westies and a Thundershirt.

Westie in ThundershirtA while ago I went to see two entire male Westies that had previously played and slept together, and now had started to growl and go for each other.  They were doing really well until a month or so ago when things went downhill again. There had been problems at home with worry and tension and these little dogs will probably have picked up on it. The people have been inconsistent. I went to see them again last night.

Both dogs were back to their compulsive carpet-licking. Westie Milo was barking at any animal on the huge TV. Both are back to charging out into the garden, trying to get ahead of each other, often sparking off trouble.  Every little thing gets them going and it snowballs; the more aroused they become, the more reactive they are so the more aorused the become, and so on.

We have put some new management suggestions into place. Both dogs are shown (one is entered for Crufts this year) and accustomed to being in a crate. I suggested one soft crate in the sitting room. Then the instigator of the growling can quietly be put in in the crate and both given something to chew – an alternative to carpet-licking that helps them to calm themselves (they can’t usually be given bones or chews because it could start a fight). With Milo’s barking at TV, again he can go in the crate and it can be covered. He is on ‘animal watch’ and his keen eyes spot the smallest animal on the screen! Something to do with dog’s eyesight and HD TV makes this possible. We let them into the garden, but before doing so the lady slipped a lead on each dog, waited at the door for calm, stepped out and only let the dogs off lead one at a time – the calmer one first. This worked perfectly. The people must remember to do it each time now for a while.

They had a Thundershirt for Milo and the fireworks (Merlin isn’t bothered by them). It made little difference apparently. While I was there we experimented with the Thundershirt and the carpet-licking. The Thundershirt went on Merlin and he stopped the licking and relaxed, completely calm. We put it on Milo and it made no difference at all. It was a graphic illustration played out before my eyes with two dogs of the same breed with the same habit, and of how a Thundershirt works very well with some dogs and not with others.

Here is the link to the story of my original visit: http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=9323

A week later and things are settling down again: “Thought I would give you a quick update a week after your visit.  After having to put Milo in the crate a couple of time on the first couple of nights, things have greatly improved…..there has been very little, if any, growling.  In fact, they have been playing the last couple of mornings when I have been having my breakfast.  And evenings have been very good as well.  So, hopefully we are moving in the right direction again”.

West Highland Terrier and the Cat

WestieWestie Daisy, at ten months old, is not much more than a puppy.

She is friendly without being demanding, surprisingly relaxed for a little terrier, and very good on walks – not pulling on lead and coming back when she is called.

EXCEPT when she is on ‘Cat Alert’!

Her family has a cat and somehow when they brought Daisy home at about twelve weeks old they got off on the wrong foot. They were understandalby concerned that if she chased the cat, the cat might leave home, so there was a lot of anxiety focussed onto Daisy around the cat. The cat never had an opportunity to ‘bop’ her while she was tiny.

Now Daisy is obsessed. At the start of walks, she is ready to pull out of the front door because the cat could be lurking somewhere – and she will even run out down the street and into other gardens after it.

At the back door she is ready to tear out into the garden, barking at first hint of the cat, then she barks and agitates at a corner where it goes through the fence which is causing trouble with a neighbour.

Indoors the cat is upstairs and Daisy is downstairs until Daisy goes into her crate at night. All the time she has to know where the cat is, and during the day her favourite spot is on the bottom stair by the gate, on cat watch.

It would be nice for them to live in harmony together, and Daisy is obviously very stressed by the cat.  When she does get near to it, she shakes. Because I didn’t actually see this as the cat was nowhere to be seen, I can’t decide whether this is fear or arousal or a mix of both, but either way the strategies to use are the same.

We have a plan! Daisy must get no more opportunities to practise the emotion of fixating and chasing the cat out the front – by being kept well away from the door unless controlled on lead. At the start of walks they may need to go in and out of the house many times, turning around and removing her from the situation each time she starts panting, barking or pulling. They need to take control of the situation for her. Up till now the cat has been associated with negative things – anxiety, scolding, ‘no’ and the neck discomfort of being pulled back on lead. Now, I have shown them how, in tiny stages, to get Daisy to associate the cat with pleasant things, starting with rewarding her for giving her attention to them when asked and away from the cat, together with rewarding calm behaviour whilst looking at the cat. While the stairs are gated, this can be done in a controlled fashion with the cat on the stairs, and Daisy downstairs.

Soon they should be able to have them in the sitting room together, Daisy controlled on lead. The minute she shows any stress, she will be removed from the situation. No force will be used – just patience. they will get there all in good time.

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