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I have covered most of the basic training that you should need in order socialise your dog and reach an acceptable level of control. The optimum period that pups best learn to commence socialisation is between 6 to 16 weeks. They need at least the first 6 weeks to socialise with their own kind. We now accept that pups acquired after 16 weeks and where the breeder has not followed any socialisation training will not learn to socialise well after this age. This does raise the problem that this is also the period required for the vaccination isolation. Pharmaceutical companies are now aware of this and your vet can vaccinate earlier allowing puppies a quicker entry into the world. I do believe that having bred my own dog certainly helped toward his devotion to working with me as we formed an early bond. The change with the procedure by the Guide Dogs for Blind to send out puppies to homes for puppy walking by reducing this from 10 or 12 weeks to 6 weeks greatly improved they training success rates. Is this not proof enough of the old saying of catch them young was correct

From my article on choosing your puppy it is all right if you can remain objective and remember all the right things to ask and do but we are all prone to make mistakes. What happens next is that we must learn from our mistakes and it is then important to know the right way to correct these problems? I came across a self-help web site forum the other day with a whole range of dog problems receiving advice from people on how to cure them. I have to say by the time I arrived at the end of many still unresolved problems even I was confused so how the dog was feeling I dread to think. I read where a behaviour councillor actually forced a dog into the ground to lie on top in order to dominate it and try to alter the dog’s behaviour. There were instructors that took a dog away and returned in two weeks apparently cured. Problems returned within a couple of weeks as the dog was back home and knew how to organise the owner. It is all right for me knowing what to look for and watch my pup in how it reacts in order to pre-empt problems. For many owners they cannot do this. We are establishing behaviour counsellors who appreciate this and all will give the best advice based on researching each dog and its environment. No two dogs are the same but owners must be able to understand why their dog is doing what it does and understand the cure. If the owner cannot see any improvement in the early days of administering the said cure, they begin to doubt even some of the most experienced behaviour counsellors. If I give advice, I hope that the owner does understand and is willing to keep up the effort and accept that in many cases it can take time to undo the problem that have taken time to form.

I have received a question relating to the child bitten on her face for cuddling her new dog. Was this just the normal attack response of an older dog irritated with a pup? You may have seen a dog suddenly, not bark not growl but more of a deep cough that causes the pup to freeze. The dog then holds the pups muzzle in its jaws and waits for the pup to say sorry by showing the submissive stance then is released and allowed to slink away in disgrace. Dogs allow an enormous amount of leeway with pups but do not bite. The anger shown here was not the same as it actually badly bit the child. The question is why it became angry and moving into a new environment and finding one of the established members approach it and maybe with eye contact then to hold the dog round the neck would in any other pack is a sign that from any other dog that it wished to dominate this new dog. This it will only be prepared to tolerate from dogs that showed all the correct signals which the child could never have shown and so follows the anger and resulting attack. I do not believe that dogs see two year olds as puppies nor humans as dogs but with early association, you can teach them to tolerate children. (Try telling parents that)

Recently I looked at a number of dogs that showed aggression but there is a whole range of anger signals in the same way we can be annoyed to down right livid. Those I have seen to date have only shown me defensive (not dangerous) aggression in order to keep people at a distance. Training does not remove aggression from dogs only they learn, as we do, that it is better to suppress it. We must teach that aggression and resulting biting will not achieve the required goal. If we use the example of wolves, which are very aggressive, they have learned that to survive in their environment fighting to the death or injury is none productive. What they evolved is ritualised aggression and responses that do not need an actual fight to sort the problem. One of them will appear dominant. One will submit and then life goes on. If we then follow their example and teaching a dog that it will only receive positive rewards to not showing aggressions is the only way forward. The correct method is to ignore the dog when it had done something wrong by turning your back or walking away for ten minuets. Following this period of forced isolation we then reward the dog for something it does right. Chastising a dog by shouting or hitting will undo all your good work and only make matters far worse. Please bite your tongue and count to ten then start again with a positive command and reward. I do understand as I have been there but if you keep your mind focused on your goal you will calm down and look at the current problem again. A client of mine use to say to me a problem is there for solving.

Sometimes, we do need a quick solution or the neighbours get upset so this trick may prove useful should you find you need it. An elderly lady had this same problem with her little dog but was not prepared to follow any learning routine other than keep her dog inside. This did solve the problem for the neighbours. Many years ago, I agreed to look after my brother in laws gun dog for two weeks. His mum let it sleep in the house rather than in his outside kennel and so, if he was to sleep in our spare outside kennel he said it would bark incessantly. As soon as I placed it in the compound, it started barking. It lasted for four hours none stop before the neighbours came to complain. The dog was not coming in the house so I had to think of a solution. As soon as I went to see the dog is became quite so it was demanding my attention to let it into the house. Answer was to stop it wanting to attract my attention. I got three buckets of water ready and when it barked I opened the French windows. Without saying anything and not actually looking at the dog but using peripheral vision, I slung a bucket of water over the dog and closed the windows. I did this five times until the next time I opened the window it went quiet and I left the full bucket in plane sight of the dog. It never barked again. Suffice to say that when the dog returned home it started to bark again and I soon received a telephone call asking how I kept the dog outside at my house. I simply told him to fill a bucket of water and stand it outside where his dog could see it. It did the trick. It is as a baby quickly learns that if it cries someone will come and show it attention. (You cannot use this trick on babies) I understand some owners have resorted to using shock collars set automatically to react to barking. I strongly recommend you do not use these ever. Only a licensed expert should ever use this and only where the dog has no other option. A similar automatic collar uses vile scent spray instead of an electric shock in the same way we would use Bitter Apple to deter chewing of the family furniture. This is all last resort stuff.

As I said last week, I need asking first before I can help. I was asked by a local policeman if I would visit a house where they displayed beware of the dog sign and owned a large dog showing aggression. I knocked on the door and heard the normal keep away type of bark. The owner opened the door then she was fighting with the dog to force it back inside. I explained my visit was to offer my help and to prove it if she let the dog out to meet me I assured her it would not bite me. She would have none of it and said they had the dog under control.

Some years ago, I received a request to assess a dog that chased children on bikes. I saw the dog one evening and initially there were no apparent problems. Then for no reason I could see it started to growl quite deeply. The way the lady owner let her dog show many leadership traits I first thought it might have been growling at her boyfriend out of jealousy by his show of affection towards her. It then went for me simple because I looked at it. I stopped the attack and sent it to its basket. (And no, I did not have to hit it) The owner then went to the dog and yelled at it until it started to growl at her and I had to intervene. The reactions from the dog were abnormal and my initial thought was it did not have all its lights lit or was a brick short of a full load as the sayings go. The owner was not prepared to follow any system of retraining so I said the question she must ask herself was how would she feel if her dog did knock a child off its bike causing injury. How could she face the parents knowing her dog had a problem? I later heard the dog had had a tumour and put down. If your dog has a problem that seems out of character then do, check with your vet first to see if everything medically is fine before addressing behavioural problems.

Last week I went to see the owner and her new dog. Ringing the doorbell a dog started to bark normally but then deeper as the owner started to hold the dog back by the collar. When the door opened, I refused to enter until she let go of her dog. She did and it shot forward and then went round me leaving me alone as I entered the house. She was surprised and could not understand why the dog continued to ignore me. As she had students regularly visit her, she felt she should hold the dog and then put it out in the car. I explained that these were the classic methods to make her dog aggressive to visitors. To make matters worse the dog then jumped up onto the settee, rolled over onto her lap pinning her down demanding attention. If asked of any dog school instructor they would say there are no problem dogs only problem owners. I explained that with retraining she could still have the cuddles only if she initiated them. (No with the dog I mean) Alas, even though she was a teacher, she did not want to learn.

A commonly encountered problem was a hound that kept jumping up at everyone who came into the house and on occasions mounting people’s legs. Here again the owner was surprised the dog was ignoring me. (It is my aftershave) I explained what they should do by saying nothing but just turn and ignore the dog or stand up and turn their back to the dog. The dog will get the message. When people enter your house, allow your dog to see your visitors but ask your friends not to look at the dog until such time they wish to say hello to it. That is all I do when I visit peoples houses that have dogs.

As to the progress on Case 1, where a rescued bitch believes she is the leader. Being rescued she missed the 6 to 16 week optimum learning for socialisation period and is still displaying many leadership traits as before and it is becoming a battle of wills. The bitch now demands to sit on the owner’s bed and to sitting in chairs. To solve this is to tell her to get out off the chair for praise then tell her to get back on the chair again for praise. The bitch then has to play by the owner’s rules and sitting in the chair no longer becomes a hierarchal issue. She still prefers to bark at people near the garden fence rather than have a titbit so things look worse. I know she will stop doing this for me but that is no help. The owner must keep her sustained programme and demonstrate she is in control. Remember the bitch barks at people who walk past the garden in order to chase them away. As most people do walk by this only reinforces the bitch’s belief that her barking is working. It may be a good idea to teach the dog to speak on command and then teach the quiet command in order that the dog then understands quiet. Currently the bitch is possibly confusing the owner’s shouts of shut up as her form of barking at the passers by along with her. (Remember the bitch she no speak the English) The dog is letting the bitch eat his food so she is still above him within the hierarchy. If the owner gives both dogs’ short rations and feeds them together the dog will eventually have to stop her stealing his meal if he wants to eat. This will signify to the bitch that she is then beneath him. Until she is hungry, training her to leave barking at the fence for a titbit is not yet a significant reward. The bitch must recognise that the owner controls the food.

Case 2 a dog barking and lunging at other dogs it meets.

There is no progress at present, as dog classes seem expensive simply to allow the dog to mix with mature dogs in a controlled situation. Older dogs would put the dog in its place and teach it how to mix and play as well as to curb its display of aggression.

Because of these problems, I am interested in forming a panel of dog people who may be interested in helping with situation training for problem dogs. If you are interested in problem solving then please give me a call.

Next week it will be a resume of the past twelve weeks. I hope I have also found some information of more outlets for training and competing in Spain. If any of you would like to try your hand at learning working trials including criminal, tracking, agility and scent work or agility competitions then please contact me.

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