Whippet Lurcher is Scared of Men

Tilly was a stray dog found on the streets in Greece along with a male dog from whom she was inseparable and who now also has a new home. She is one year old and some sort of whippet cross.

Tilly is a remarkably stable dog in all respects bar one – she is still, after four months of living with the couple, very wary of the gentleman of the house, this is despite the man doing nearly everything for Tilly because the lady is often away for a week at a time for her work. Many dogs that have not suffered abuse are scared of men.

Tilly is worst of all when he is standing up or walking about. One can only guess at what must have happened to her earlier at the hands of a man, perhaps the dog-catcher. Apparently the other dog is even more scared of men, which is a tribute to the efforts Tilly’s people have put in so far.

Sitting on the sofa with the lady, I watched as the man walked around the room, making us a coffee. Tilly made sure she had the kitchen table between her and him, eyes darting, tail between her legs and licking her lips.

When he sat down on the L-shaped sofa, Tilly jumped straight up too but as far away from him as she could, between the lady and myself. Here was his dog, snuggling up to me and kissing my nose, whereas if the man so much as moved on the other end of the sofa she shrank back into the seat (see her picture). He feels so very hurt. He is the sweetest, gentlest of men and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my saying that he’s not a macho type. He has tried so hard with her.

The fact that the other two little dogs (photos below) enjoy his cuddles doesn’t seem to help Tilly at all.

Here is a very short video of Tilly thinking the man may be about to stand up, but relaxing when he doesn’t.

He really does adore her, but I feel his efforts to make her accept him are the crux of  the stalemate they have now reached. He needs to start behaving in a way that doesn’t come naturally to him – with some indifference.  I believe that all the effort he makes is, in a way, driving her away. There is too much pressure upon on her (I have had personal experience of this when I took on my German Shepherd, Milly).

Weirdly, off lead out on walks with lots of space she is a different dog, running about and playing, and (mostly) coming back to him when called, but at home, before they can go, she runs around before cowering in a corner for him to put collar and lead on her. Again, it does make one wonder whether it was a dog-catcher that caused her problems with men. Once collar and lead are on, he gives her a fuss – but I did point out to him that at thLittle dog being cuddledis stage a fuss was in effect punishment to her. It can be hard for a loving human to see this from the dog’s point of view.

I am certain that playing harder to get is the answer and to release her of all obligation to come to him or to be touched by him. Easing of all pressure by acting indifferent is one half of the plan for desensitisation. The other is counter-conditioning.

She will now only be fed dog food at meal times and the special stuff – chicken – will be used for ‘man’ work. Starting at a level she could tolerate, each time the man moved and Tilly looked at him, we said a quiet ‘yes’ and fed her. We gradually upped the ante until he stood up and sat down again, all the time feeding her. When he walked around it became too much for her – she ran off to the other side of the kitchen table.

While he walks about, as obviously he must, he will either silently throw food to her as he passes or drop it behind him as he walks, encouraging her to follow him rather than to run away. If he can manage to resist words and eye contact, she will slowly relax I’m sure.

He will become a walking ‘chicken vending machine’! In time she will associate him only with good stuff.Crested Powder Puff

If he resists approaching her in any way for long enough, the time will come when she actively invites his attention, and I feel he should still hold back! To value it, she needs to have to work for it (rather than, as she probably now feels, it being forced upon her). She needs to learn that coming over to him doesn’t result in something that is (to her at the moment) punishing.

I am sure, if he takes things sufficiently slowly and resists showering her with demonstrative love until she is well and truly ready, all will be well eventually. It’s a question of building up her trust.

One month later: ‘Tilly is doing exceptionally well and is turning into a fantastic lady. She is incredible on recall and sits down for her lead in the morning. She sits for her treats etc on the run and walks beautifully. She still goes under the bed but is first on the bed in the morning to lick JIms’s face and licks his hands a number of times during the night to say hello. We are delighted with the progress. Jim is grinning from ear to ear and is very proud of ‘their’ progress. As I write Tilly is lying with her head on Jim’s lap.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Tilly, 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. 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).

Staffie May Redirect onto Whippet

Staffie Maddie has extremely high stress levels

Maddie

Over the months the stress both in and between these two 9-year-old dogs has been building up.

Staffie Maddie is almost impossibly noisy, pushy, barking and jumping up when the lady owner has guests – if she is allowed to join them at all – and little Misty, a Terrier Whippet cross, is also very vocal but with more obvious fear. People can’t hear themselves speak. The way they try to calm Maddie is to do as she demands and keep stroking her as she lies beside them. Not only is it giving her a very good reason to behave like this, but also, even while she is being given the attention she’s demanding, she is getting more and more worked up!

When I initially arrived Misty came through alone and she was quiet, relaxed and sniffing. It was only when Maddie rushed in that she, too, started to bark at me. Once little Misty has stopped barking, she watches Maddie. Sometimes she shakes. Maddie intimidates her when she’s like this. See how anxious she looks.

Misty is intimidated by Maddie

Misty

Maddie’s stress levels are extreme much of the time. Small things set her off. This is now increasingly being redirected onto Misty and there have been a couple of incidents, one resulting in blood.

Ten days ago I went on a fascinating weekend seminar by Dr. Susan Freidman about behaviour, consequences and reinforcement. It was like she was sitting on my shoulder. The more noise Maddie makes, the more attention she gets – sometimes scolding sometimes petting – but reinforcement either way. The more anxious Misty becomes, the more attention and fussing that earns also.

As soon as the lady comes downstairs in the morning, Maddie starts the day by rushing at the gate separating her from Misty and giving her a loud, warning bark. When she comes in from the garden, she noisily demands her breakfast – which she gets. Quite simply, barking works.

Maddie excelled at dog training classes. This is another example where traditional dog training is largely irrelevant, especially if it doesn’t take into consideration the home dynamics. Commands don’t reduce stress. In fact, ‘silence is golden’. Both dogs get a lot of excercise with lovely long country walks.

Whilst I was there Maddie was learning very quickly that the only attention she got from me was when she was still and quiet. She tried so very hard, bless her. She was distracting herself with a bit of displacement scratching and chewing in her efforts to keep calm while she was beginning to understand what was required. I, too, was learning just what level of gentle attention was enough not to break through that fine line and fired her up again. She is so eager to please and only needs to understand what is required, and then for all the humands to be consistent.

It can be so hard for us humans to break our own old habits.

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.
 

Whippet Brothers May Suddenly Fight

Whippet lying on his chair

Fergus

Whippets are just so delicate and graceful. To look at them it’s hard to imagine they could ever cause any trouble!

Whippet

William

These two beautiful siblings are now four years old, and have lived with their family for eighteen months. They have very different personalities, and for most of the time they are model  pets.  Whippet William on the left is much more excitable than Whippet Fergus, who is more controlling.  This can cause trouble between the dogs, and though they are the best of mates, sleeping and playing together, there are certain flash points which suddenly cause them to turn on each other. William’s excitement starts it, firing Fergus up, and in no time there is blood. It’s over as fast as it started. This is usually happening around walks, at the gate and encountering challenges like cats – and around food. William’s over-excited behaviour at the door before the start of a walk may cause Fergus to ‘sort’ William. William, redirecting his stress, even bit the lady owner, so now both dogs are muzzled when out.

All walks start with William running and prancing about, making it hard to catch him to put on his lead, whilst Fergus waits. Walks start off on the wrong note with tight uncomfortable leads and a tense owner on ‘cat watch’. They are going to need patience so that William learns to calm down. You can’t force a dog to become calm, you have to work at it in all areas of his life, understanding that stress builds up over time. Calmness has to happen from the inside. The humans will be working to provide calm leadership in a way understood by the dogs – in all areas of their lives.

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

Jumping up and teeth

Whippet Cocker mixLucy is the most endearing little dog. She is a seven month old Whippet/Cocker Spaniel mix, with a whippet body and cocker spaniel ears – and bounce! With this breed combination one would not expect her to be slow and placid! Mix this with two young children and you have a recipe for EXCITEMENT.

Lucy does many of the things most young dogs do – but to excess. Jumping up, flying about, nipping and whining if shut out. Nothing new really! I have personal experience from my own working cocker spaniel Pickle, now 11 months old, of a young dog fired with rocket fuel.  Everything he does is at double speed – he can’t even spare the time to stay still long enough to toilet so does it on the run. With Pickle I knew what to do from day one and he learnt that jumping up never got him any attention. If he jumped on people we would turn away or simply stand up to tip him off. No eye contact, no touching and no words. If he jumped at a table he would be patiently, quietly, gently and consistently removed by his collar or harness. If he became over-excited he would be calmly put in his crate for a short ‘time-out’ break to calm down.  Consistency is the key.

Pickle never did use his teeth though. This will be because he was with at least one other sibling until eleven weeks of age and puppies learn from one another. Lucy unfortunately left her litter at six weeks old and her new family didn’t realise how important it was to teach the tiny puppy not to use her teeth – but in a way the other puppies would – with a short squeal and walking or turning away. Lucy thinks the children’s reaction to her nipping is play. Shouting OUCH is meaningless to a puppy. Pushing her away is a game and an invitation to nip hands and arms. Tapping her on the nose is an invitation to a rough game or a bite.

This is a superb little dog. We will take things a bit at a time. Firstly curb the jumping and nipping, and basic lead work in the garden and near to home without children or buggy. They will do their best to avoid unecessary excitement. Until she is a bit calmer nothing more can be done. The slightest bit off attention hypes her up.

We can then look at teaching a few basics like sit, down and stay, and taking the walking a bit further afield.

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