Another Rescue Can’t Be Left Alone

Young Rottie has been in her new home for one weekIt’s hard to believe that dear little Rottie (perhaps Rottie mix) Dotty had been languishing in Wood Green Animal Shelter for four whole months. Not only is she beautiful to look at, she is amazingly calm for a dog who is probably less than eighteen months old.

Dotty had been picked up as a stray, but obviously had enjoyed home life before. She has had some training and has very good manners. I can’t imagine how anyone could abandon a dog like this. If someone had been looking for her they had plenty of time to find her.

She has landed on her feet with experienced dog owners, people I in fact helped about six years ago with their previous dog who was a much greater challenge.

Very wisely they decided to start as they mean to go on. Because of the level of management their other dog needed, it’s possible they are actually trying a little bit too hard and need to relax a bit. Just let Dotty settle in gradually. I don’t feel there is any risk of her going off the rails!

The main, overwhelming need, is to be able to leave her alone. This seems to be fairly common with dogs who have been in rescue kennels for a while, and nobody knows until the dog is in a home that separation will be an issue.

On the third morning the lady needed to go out. She walked Dotty and then shut her in the crate (where Dotty happily goes voluntarily). She had done no more than pick her bag when, in the lady’s words, Dotty had a meltdown. She went frantic. Needless to say, the lady didn’t go out.

It is fortunate that she works from home, and that her husband can cover for her if she needs to go out, because ideally this sort of thing needs to be done gradually. Already, and I only saw her a couple of days ago, Dotty is happily left downstairs while the lady is upstairs. She is behind a gate.

All the triggers like picking up a handbag or keys need to be associated with good stuff and commonplace. They will now be working on closing doors with a departure signal – or more accurately a ‘certainly coming back’ signal. Whenever they go out of her presence they already are saying ‘Back soon’. This signal, accompanied by food, will gradually make their departures pleasurable and reassuring for Dotty and with the work they are going to put in she will, in time, be convinced without doubt that they are definitely going to return.

Returns from all these short exits will be boring – nothing to get excited about – something that is ‘a given’.

It is very early days and impossible to tell whether Dotty being okay left alone will take weeks or even months, or whether they will get a sudden breakthrough as she begins to trust the routines of her new life.

It is now almost two months later, and this is the latest feedback on Dotty’s separation issues: ‘Home alone is better – she has gone from ‘don’t leave me’ to ‘put the toy box down and get out!’. Asleep when I get back and not out of her mind to see me.  I make a ‘toy box’ – treat ball, yummy bones, toys etc that she only gets when I go out. Hide the lot in a cardboard box so she has to work to get at them. She has a great time with that lot and then climbs on the kitchen chair and goes to sleep.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Dotty, which is why I don’t go into 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).

Old Dog Intolerant of Younger Dog

Elderly German Shepherd is finding life hard with new younger dog


I felt quite inspired being with this couple and their two rescue dogs – one elderly German Shepherd who without their offer of a home would have been put to sleep and a younger Belgian Shepherd who was found in a canal.

Since the four-year-old Jack arrived from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago, Chloe’s barking has escalated. It is hard for an old dog like Chloe to accept an energetic younger dog in her home.

The couple badly want both dogs to be happy together. They already have a very ‘positive’ outlook on dog communication, but some things need an outsider’s perspective.

This is quite a challenge. Many of the options for the sort of behaviour exhibited by GSD Chloe are impossible due to her being in quite a lot of pain from arthritis despite being on the maximum dosage of Metacam. Even getting up is a labour, so they are working on getting eye contact and reinforcing quiet.

The constant discomfort together with lack of mobility I’m sure will be contributing to Chloe’s intolerance of active new boy Jack.

To help her properly, they need to change the emotions that are driving her barking behaviour.

Newly rehomed Belgian Shepherd feels uneasy around their elderly German Shepherd


Seeing Jack petted and fussed may be upsetting Chloe. She barked at him when he was excited around me. She barked at him when he was chewing a toy. She barked whenever he came back into the room from the garden. She sometimes barks when he just walks about. She barks constantly on walks with him.

As we could see from his body language, Jack at times feels a little uneasy when entering the room or walking past her.  He is treading carefully – for now.

Their way to make him feel at home has been a lot of touching and petting, he’s certainly irresistible – but they are fair.  Chloe gets her share also. However, something tells me that it would be best for now if the fussing of Jack was kept to a minimum, best for him and best for Chloe.

Despite the Metacam, Chloe was stressed and restless the whole evening. It ended with a spat between the two dogs over a toy she had been chewing and which Jack then took and started to destroy. (They dealt with it beautifully – immediately and calmly separating the dogs).

Chloe’s barking on walks when she sees other dogs has escalated these past two weeks. This is a shame because she used to be so well-socialised and friendly as for now, fortunately, is Jack.

The couple is afraid that he will learn the wrong things from her.

For now the two will be walked separately in order to work on Jack’s loose lead walking and give him the exercise he needs, and to properly work on Chloe’s barking and reactivity. You can teach an old dog new tricks – with patience and kindness.

Then, all being well, they will be able to walk both dogs together again.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chloe and Jack, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. 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).

Sprocker Jumps Up, Nips, Steals

Sprocker Milo is a very good natured and friendly dog - but he is a handfulMilo is a beautiful 14 month old Cocker-Springer mix. His family adopted him from Wood Green three months ago at eleven months of age. It became obvious very soon just why his previous owners had given up on him, but fortunately the members of his new family are giving it all they can and have already made progress.

Milo didn’t have a good start in life because his mother died when he was born and consequently he was hand-reared. It is almost impossible for a human to replace the lessons taught by his mother. From his behaviour it also seems likely that he didn’t have the rough and tumble, give and take and bite inhibition lessons learnt from being reared with siblings.

He’s a very good natured and friendly dog – but he is a handful! His ‘crimes’ include jumping up, mouthing and nipping; stealing things for the attention and the chase; nip-biting when examined or groomed, and grabbing a hand that takes his collar; jumping up at work tops to steal food; he jumps all over visitors and they are afraid to have their young nephews and neices visit them. At the start of walks he is flying about, leaping up and grabbing the lead, nipping arms and maybe humping the person holding it. Basically he lacks self control or any form of impulse control.

His is a perfect example of reinforcement driving behaviour.  Attention of any sort will do! When looked at like that the solutions become clearer. We unintentionally reinforce unwanted behaviour so need to reinforce with attention desired behaviour only. This may be easier said than done – which is where I come in with strategies.

Milo has some very good traits. He is affectionate. He never barks for attention and is peaceful in his crate – very necessary when they aren’t about to watch him! Neither is he a big barker generally. The things that most stimulate him need reducing so that he can calm down. It’s not a good idea to play tug games or chase games with a dog that mouths, nips and grabs, or who steals things and runs off with them – winding you up for a chase.

He needs rules and boundaries in terms that he understands – provided more by the actions of his humans than by words and commands. Good self-controlled behaviour needs to become more rewarding than bad behaviour.

About 5 weeks later – some good progress with lead walking: ‘We see lots of progress compared to where we were and are confident your plan is working.  One proud moment yesterday was when we watched our son taking Milo out for a short walk. The whole process was a result of the training plan – Milo allowed him to fit the harness without any fuss, he sat and waiting while the lead was attached.  He remained calm, and followed my son out of the door with a slack lead, we watched them go off down the driveway, Milo walking at his side, lead slack and a general confident look.  Matt had a treat for him and he certainly deserved it!.

Too Much Jumping Up

Staff Princess is a great family petPrincess came from Wood Green Animal Shelter two months ago and is a wonderful dog. She is friendly and stable with no apparent hang-ups at all.

The problem I was called out for was her persistent jumping up. There are three children in the family, aged between 6 and 11, and the youngest could easily be knocked over. The children are very good and try to turn away, but they may wave their arms in the air. Naturally they will get excited. Their grandfather, whose dog Princess is, will be grabbing her and scolding her. She also jumps on the adults who tell her ‘down’ and push her off, but they also, at other times, pet her while her feet are off the floor. Very confusing for Princess.

What Princess is learning is that jumping up gives her high-value attention – under her own control, especially when people have just come in. She may get down initially when told and pushed, but she has learnt it is a sure-fire way to get attention next time! Telling her to get down, pushing her and especially looking her in the eye is, to the dog, a mix of saying ‘come up’ and ‘go away’. Very confusing!

Not surprisingly due to lack of experience and training and her enthusiastic personality, Princess is a big puller on lead and now they use a head halter which she hates. This really isn’t necessary if they go back to the beginning, and teach her to walk beside them through choice, one step at a time.

These problems should soon iron themselves out with consistency and a bit of effort – and she will be the model family pet!

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

Stray Border Collie from Ireland

Border Collie Rex lying under a chairRex, a Border Collie found as a stray in Ireland a couple of years ago, shipped to Wood Green Animal Shelter and now four years old, is a dog you would be proud to have. He lives with a more elderly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is now slowing down.

The dogs belong to a lady and her two daughters who share their care.  At home there are no problems with the dogs, but it’s outside that Rex is causing a few problems. He has some very good points – he is good with most other dogs – if sometimes feeling a bit trapped when on lead, and he responds quite well to a whistle.

A few months ago the poor lady dislocated her shoulder with Rex’ lunging and circling, and she is still receiving treatment. He is a big chunky dog for a Border Collie – he may be mixed with something else. The other day she was pulled over by him as he suddenly crossed in front of her to check out a couple of dogs. The lady has tried all sorts of equipment and methods, all of which rely upon ‘control’ and ‘correction’ to stop him pulling. We need to go back to basics and get him wanting not to pull, to realise how nice walks are when walking like there is no lead at all. We need to change Rex’ mind-set, and that of his humans.

Because of the damaged shoulder (caused by Rex), the lady has to have a special seat belt which costs £200. What has Rex now done? When left in the car he has eaten through two of them!

We need to look at ways to manage this situation so it simply can’t happen again, whilst stopping him feeling that he needs to do it. I think we have got to the bottom of why it happens. If he were calm with no stress and no distress, he would not want do it.

In order to get things right outside, we also need to make sure all the interaction and dog parenting/leadership at home is in place in order to set firm foundations, otherwise it’s like the proverbial ‘house built on sand’.

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

A Big Change in a Little Terrier’s Life

Terrier Lyssa is adapting to her new lifeLyssa is a very little Terrier with very big ears! She is just eleven months old, not much more than a puppy really.

She previously lived with an old man in a flat, and rarely went out. She slept with him on his bed and toileted on a puppy pad in the corridor  – and it’s clear she was punished if she did it anywhere else.

In the past ten days Lyssa’s life has completely changed. She was in Wood Green for a couple of days and quickly adopted by a couple with two children. From what must have been a quiet life, the sole companion of an elderly man, she now lives in an active, noisy household. I think she is adapting amazingly well, with a few teething problems.

One is the toileting indoors. She likes to toilet when nobody is watching, as though she is expecting punishment. Her new people may stay outside with her for an hour, but while they are watching she won’t go – and as soon as she comes in she will go somewhere in the house, out of sight.  On the occasion they do see her ‘go’ outside, they understandably lavish her with praise and fuss. This must be very confusing for her – after all, it is a natural function. I see the way forward here as to simply accept there will be some accidents in the house whilst keeping her in an area with washable floors, making sure she has plenty of access to outside, taking her out but leaving her to get on it with it, and just be thankful she’s not a Great Dane!

Because she is likely to be scared of retribution, she is probably therefore holding her wee and poo, so as soon as she is at all stressed like when they go out, go to bed or somebody comes, she just goes on the floor. She can’t help it.

Lyssa is also having problems being alone at night for the first time in her life.

Providing her with kind and consistent leadership, not overdoing the petting, keeping comings and goings casual and for the children to try to back off a little, will I’m sure do the trick.

The other problem which they need to deal with is her behaviour on lead, and we will need to start from scratch just as if she were a puppy.

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

Little Staffie

Sophie is a perfect example of how wrong is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s reputation for aggression. It is the owners, not the dogs.  I have been to a good number of Staffies, and in only a very few cases was aggession involved, mostly between siblings of the same sex.

Sophie was rescued by Wood Green Animal Shelter and went to live with her new family at the age of fourteen weeks – she’s now a year and a half old and still quite small. She is very restless indeed. She rarely settles. She flies all over people, leaps right over the chairs, she chases her tail, licks people compulsively and chews her feet. She spends a lot of time pacing about and whining. She also has a skin condition which I’m sure is made worse by her general stress levels.

When I was there she settled a lot sooner than usual when people come to the house because I insisted everyone, including the two children, took no notice of her until she had relaxed – which took a long time. Of course, one touch or word, or even eye contact and off she went again – patrolling, whining, pacing, licking, chewing.

Sophie is a mix of playful and submissive with other dogs on walks, though tends to get excited and jump up at people. She pulls so much she has to wear a Gentle Leader which she hates. After most of my recent cases, it is nice to go to a dog that has no aggression issues towards other dogs – and this a Staffordshire Bull Terrier!

Walks, given because they are meant to calm her down, are having the reverse effect. When she gets home it takes her a long time to unwind – she is even more manic than when she started out. This is a clear indication that walks, as they are now, are doing her no good at all. It’s a case of ‘less is more’ for the time being.

Sophie has a lovely home with a lady who is conscientious in trying to do the right thing, and two helpful children.  This family would like another Staffie puppy in the fulness of time, but agree they must get Sophie ‘fixed’ first, and then they will know how to get things right with a new puppy from day one.

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

Puzzling Jack Russell

My gentleman client has had Monty for just six days. Monty is a small and extremely cute Jack Russell. He has previously had two homes that probably had young children and Monty may have felt threatened and shown aggression to protect himself.  He then spent six weeks in Wood Green animal shelter.

Monty puzzled me. He barely moved from his bed. He  didn’t get up when I came in. He didn’t lift his head when either of us moved about or went out of the room. He may be exhausted from the trials of the past few weeks and noise of the kennels. Maybe he is recovering from some sort of trauma. It’s as though he has shut down. When he did get out of his bed it was to do multiple stretches and bows, accompanied by yawning and lifting his paw, calming signals and appeasement. When I tickled him gently with just one finger, he seemed to freeze. He has already bonded closely with his new owner and is very comfortable being touched by him, though he is not interested in any sort of play.

But, yes you can guess, Monty changes personaltiy completely out on walks! He is extremely reactive to other dogs, and taking his owner unawares he yesterday actually bit another small dog which badly shook the gentleman, as did the angry reaction of the other dog’s owner. When Monty sees another dog, even in the distance from the high window, he becomes very agitated. He shakes and salivates. I wonder what has happened in his past life.

Monty’s gentleman is very intuitive and Monty has fallen on his feet. The man is going to refrain from spoiling him or trying to compensate for what has happened in the past, and to behave as a calm, fair and strong leader would. Where other dogs are concerned he will work on building up Monty’s confidence in him, using advance/retreat techniques. A trustworthy leader or dad would not lead his pack or family into danger. Monty perceives other all dogs as a threat at the moment.

It’s certain his owner hasn’t yet seen the true Monty! He will gradually relax and come out of himself as his confidence grows. As he becomes more carefree he may even become playful.

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

Nightmare Walks

Lurcher and brindled cross breed on their bedI had a relaxing Sunday afternoon with two friendly dogs. Sitting there with Noodles the lurcher asleep much of the time and Tofu a brindled cross breed a bit more active but happy, it was hard to imagine that these same two dogs could be so fear aggressive to other dogs when out on walks.

I briefly walked in the garden with Noodles. She was so tall it was like leading a pony!

Noodles had been attacked several times by off lead dogs so was very much on the defensive.  They had recently acquired Tofu from Wood Green for company for Noodles. In many ways this has helped Noodles enormously, she is much more relaxed in the house and when the owners go out. However, Tofu isn’t an altogether good influence on her! Egged on by Tofu, the two together are a menace when out on walks. They pull and lunge at dogs and would attack if they could get to them. It is a dangerous situation for the owner who may also be pushing a buggy, and the chaos upsets their little girl.

At home there are excessive bouts of barking, with the slightest noise setting them both off, rushing from the front of the house and out through the dog flap into the garden.  I only witnessed this once in the three hours or so that I was there. This is because we had created a calm atmopshere so the dogs chilled. Both dogs, incidentally, are wonderful with the two-year-old daughter. They love her and she loves them.

The people have worked very hard with both dogs from the start, and have made great progress already.  We are now filling in a few of the basics which are less to do with training the dogs, more to do with changing their own behaviour, so that the dogs see them as the protectors, providers and decision-makers. We have worked out a strategy for making walks enjoyable – basically by going back to square one and starting all over again in a totallyl different way than ‘dog training’ and ‘correction’,  a step at a time, with the dogs understanding that the only way to get anywhere will be on a loose lead. The work has to start before they even step out of the door. It will take time!

If you live within my area, would you like me to help you too?

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