Black Cocker Spaniel heaven! I met my Pickle’s brother.

What’s better than one black Cocker Spaniel? Two black Cocker Spaniels? Hmm – I don’t know!

black Cocker Spaniel

Pickle

I am very partial to lively working Cockers, having one myself. My own Pickle is aptly named and has been an adventure from the start, keeping both myself and my other dogs on our toes!

I adore him.

Pickle is now nine years old and showing little sign of slowing down.

The lady and her daughter have a lovely black Cocker Spaniel, seven years of age, called Otis.

Continue reading…

Wild Behaviour is Unwittingly Fuelled

Wild behaviour from a dog the size of the adolescent Newfoundland can be scary.

When Beau leaped at the kitchen table she knocked the coffee mugs flying!

Taking a break from wild behaviour

Seven-month-old Beau was chosen from the litter as the most bold and pushy puppy. She organised the others, I am told, by barging them and stirring up trouble – and then sitting back to enjoy the results!

She was a mouthy, nippy puppy. This wasn’t countered immediately or correctly. Hand games and chasing her for things she stole added fuel to her wild behaviour.

As she got bigger and things became more painful, they have had to use more physical force to push her off them, to remove her away from things and to extract things from her mouth. She will do nothing when simply asked.

They can’t have her in the lounge with them for more than a few minutes before she goes wild and has to be put in the kitchen. Her worst wild episodes as so often is the case happen where she has more space – out in the garden. There have been a couple of occasions when the little girl hasn’t been safe.

In the belief that the more exercise and interaction she has, the better behaved she will be, each day starts off with too much stimulation – a prolonged welcome fuss before breakfast followed by ball play in the garden, excitement before getting in the car to take the child to school and then a walk which is probably too long for a pup of seven months.

Anyway, as she got older puppy Beau became defiant when she didn’t get her own way.

The young dog may get angry when thwarted. Several times now she has snarled, showed her teeth and lunged. Her eyes ‘looked funny’.

This is the consequence of using methods of force on a determined and strong dog. How frustrating it is for a dog not to know what she should be doing. (Please take a look at my favourite video showing the power of Yes versus No).

I showed them how we would create a willing and happy dog exercising self-control by using the power of Yes, by keeping Beau as calm as possible, by giving her suitable mental stimulation and by removing opportunities for rehearsing the wild behaviour.

By motivating her.

Almost immediately Beau began to respond to reinforcement for the right behaviour. She was becoming a lot calmer than she had been for a long time, particularly with the little girl present.

This is a typical case of owners getting through the days by fielding everything the dog throws at them so it becomes No No NO Stop, push away, drag off, shut away … and so on, and ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ when the dog is quiet.

Look at this wonderful face!

It’s just amazing just how quickly a dog responds to Yes Yes Yes and being ‘bigged up’ for each good thing she does so she knows what is required.

Each time the wild behaviour kicked off again we dealt with it by giving the big adolescent other, incompatible things to do instead, making it clear to her what we did want of her.

We soon had Beau coming to us, offering us certain behaviours with little prompting. We had her walking from one of the four of us to another when called gently. We had her responding to understandable instructions and she was loving it.

We used the clicker. The little girl also clicked Beau for sitting – with perfect timing.

Action should be immediate.

It’s no good allowing the dog to rehearse jumping and biting by letting it happen even twice before reacting. It needs to be wiped out completely.

Immediately she jumps she must lose all communication with that person. Immediately she jumps at the table someone must get up, call her off, reward what she should be doing instead and move her onto a different behaviour that is incompatible with jumping at the table.

It takes a huge amount of effort.

Pre-empting and dealing with things before they happen is best of all.

Boosting her for every desirable thing she does must also be immediate – when she sits voluntarily, when she lies down, when she sighs and relaxes. A couple of times she looked at the table which had my smelly treats on it and resisted jumping up. A first! That deserved a jackpot but it must be immediate.

It could help greatly if the little girl didn’t arouse the dog quite so much as the wild behaviour is always far worse when the child is about. She could touch her less, try not to run into the room waving arms, dance around her or do handstands in Beau’s presence. These things quickly send the dog wild.

But this is like asking the little girl not to be a little girl!

Even if the child can cut back a little on these things it will help and she will be clicker trained too! They will use the word ‘Good’ and she can collect stars. She will now ask her mum to call Beau inside before going out into the garden – and she will make a poster for the door to remind herself

The next morning I received a lovely message from the lady which is proof if any is needed of the powers of positive reinforcement and calmness:

“I am so excited to tell you that we have had the most relaxed morning since we have got Beau. Last night she came into the lounge and not once did she bite. She tried to get on the sofa once but with a little distraction she came away and lay down. 

This morning has been the shocker for me. She has been like a different dog. We have made an extra effort to be calm and relaxed and Beau has been the same. She hasn’t bitten, jumped up, barked…nothing! ……She is now laying peacefully….I know she may relapse and I’m prepared for it but she’s shown me this morning that she is more than capable of being the loving Newfoundland that she should be……I knew she had it in her but to see it is another thing. I am so happy!”

Message received three weeks later: ‘I am so happy to tell you that we have a considerably well behaved dog. She has not had an “aggressive moment” since the clicker incident on the first week. There have been times where I have stopped stroking her and she goes to mouth my hand and then realises and stops before her mouth touches me, which I reward….. I can honestly say, I can’t remember the last time she jumped up! She’s learnt to play with her toys by herself and doesn’t ram them in my hand followed by a bite like before. Overall I am delighted with the way things are going. I am still prepared for her to slip back to her old ways but she is surprisingly proving me wrong. I actually think she listens to me now!’
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 Beau and I’ve not gone into exact details for that reason. 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, particularly where aggression or fearfulness is concerned and most especially when it involves children. 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 Get Help page)

Constantly On the Go, Panics When Left

Milo looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth Milo can be both naughty and extremely anxiousWhat – constantly on the go and gets up to mischief if ignored? You wouldn’t believe it would you! Eighteen-month old Milo is divine. He’s a cross between a Jack Russell and a Cocker Spaniel.

He can be both very naughty and extremely anxious. You can see on the right the lifted paw – this shows he is worried and he does this a lot of the time. He constantly craves attention – and he has always had a lot of it. His lady owner is at home all day and he is very dependent upon her indeed (as perhaps she is on him).

His really naughty time of day is when the gentleman comes home from work! Milo tries him to the limit and is expert at winding him up. If he doesn’t get his own way he steals something or he chews something – his bed or the carpet for instance. If told to stop he may go wild and tear up the garden with the remote in his mouth. The lady has much better control in that he may come for her, but he runs the man a merry dance of chase around the garden, scaring himself in the process, when all the man wants is to put his feet up after a busy day.

The worst impact that Milo has on their lives is that he can’t be left alone at all. They can never go out together without taking Milo too. He cries and he howls, and they find it very distressing. He is with the lady all the time, all day and in their bed at night. Little by little he needs to be taught some independence. The lady is well aware of this and has made a start already, leaving for a few minutes and recording what is happening in her absence.

Milo is getting some sort satisfaction from his ‘naughty’ behaviour else he wouldn’t be doing it. Part of it may be that it helps him to relieve the stress which has built up inside him. He is a little dog very easily frightened by big things like vehicles and by different or sudden things.

Bless him. They have tried a trainer who advocated alpha rolling him and shaking stones in his face, and they have sent him somewhere for a weekend when they had to go away – and this establishment returned him saying he would now ‘behave’. He came back much more nervous than before and scared of even beng approached with the lead.

Now they have a regime that rests easy with them – kind solutions and positive alternatives to his unwanted behaviours that given time and patience will actually work, and certain rules and boundaries that should help him grow in confidence.

Just ten days later: ‘Things are going really well here Milo is like a different dog he is so calm and seems so happy and content. In turn we are so much more relaxed, our evenings have massively improved to the point where we say to each other where is the dog and he has took himself off somewhere and is fast asleep quite happy, something he would never have done before, he used to demand attention if we were watching tv or doing anything else and would never leave our sides. Over the weekend we were in the garden pottering about, R was cutting the grass and i was in and out the house usually Milo would be by my side or in the garden near R but he was sound asleep on the top of the stairs on his own, to me this was a massive improvement as that is something he would never have done in the past. I cant thank you enough for helping us back on to the right track, Milo is so relaxed and seems so happy and in turn we are so relaxed and happy. I know we still have a very long way to go with the separation issues but I can really see the light at the end of the tunnel now and know if we keep on with the routines and instructions that it will all be ok’.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.