My dog knows he's done wrong

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No he doesn’t!

He has no idea!

All he knows is that you are cross and he has not got a clue why!

So he runs through a series of appeasing behaviours to show that he’s no threat. This may include lowered head, looking away, lowered body posture, creeping, slinking away, screwing up his eyes and grinning, licking his lips, yawning, walking in slow motion silently, licking you, jumping on you, nudging you, burying his head in you. A young puppy can even lose bladder or bowel control in his distress.

All the while you are wagging your finger, shouting or yelling - or worse (as anyone who had a vicious headmistress like I did will know!) going very, very, still and quiet and saying “What. Do. You. Think. You’re. Doing?”

He doesn’t know. Really. He’s a dog.

Dog Body Language

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Dogs express themselves largely through their body language. While most people see nothing - just a dog - it’s in fact a sophisticated language which is very clear, once you learn it.

As a dog-owner it’s your duty to learn Dog Body Language!

You wouldn’t adopt a child from another country and refuse to listen to anything she said until she could express herself fluently in your language. It’s such nonsense when you look at it like that!

So know that you have to observe your dog, look out for every ear-twitch, every sideways glance - what’s his head doing? what’s his movement telling me?

There are some good resources online for learning these movements. Here’s a good one from the amazing artist Lili Chin, of the Body Language of Fear in Dogs

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Do you recognise some of these from your own dog? Start looking! You’ll see them all, in time …

So why does he look so “guilty”?

All this is telling you that telling your dog off and assuming that because he slinks or cowers or looks away, he understands what you’re on about, is mistaken! (That’s polite-speak for WRONG!)

Dogs don’t “look guilty”, or “know they’ve done wrong”. Something a few correspondents have been trying to tell me this week.

Those awful videos that get circulated online - of dogs “looking guilty” - are horrible. Anyone who actually understands dogs knows that the dog is deeply unhappy and distressed by the hostility her owner is demonstrating. Having no idea of the cause, all she can do is grovel. Setting these situations up and videoing them is cruelty, no less.

What can you do instead when something you don’t like has happened?

The first thing to do is to look at why the thing happened. And very often you’ll find the finger is pointing at … yourself!

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◆   Who left the dog alone with the kitchen waste bin?

◆   Who left the door open so that your curious dog went out through it?

◆   Who failed to follow a force-free housetraining program and now has a confused dog who doesn’t know where to relieve herself?

◆   Who left valuable yet chewable items within reach of a puppy who has as yet no boundaries?

So if you come home to find a mess, just clear it up quietly, while resolving to change your own habits so that it can’t happen again.

Our dogs have it hard enough living in our strange world without being told off for breaking rules they didn’t know existed! If you follow this path, you’ll have a hard time ever gaining her trust.

My dog knows when he's done wrong

 

Fluffy Puppy turned into a snarking monster? 5 steps to enjoying walking your dog again

This article was first published on 4knines.com and is reprinted here with permission.

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That sweet pup who at a couple of months old was so adorable that you wanted to show her off to everyone, has gained half a year and grown horns!

She barks and lunges at every dog or person she sees – and you wouldn’t want anyone to see your dog now … So you only walk her at The Hour of the Difficult Dog. You’re embarrassed. Confused. What have you done wrong?

What she’s showing is a fear reaction which can appear in adolescence.

It may have resulted from not meeting enough dogs and people in her first few weeks with you; it may be that some time another dog or person gave your pup a fright; it could just be that she’s cautious and fearful by nature.

It’s not wrong or bad – it’s just the way she is. And you still love her to bits!

So how can you improve this and get your fluffpup back again?

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1. Understand

Your dog is not aggressive or nasty - she’s afraid. The reason she’s barking and lepping about on the lead when she sees another dog or person or bike is that she’s trying to keep them away! Quite often this apparently aggressive display will do the trick, and either the other walker heads off, or you drag your dog away in embarrassment and confusion. Once she’s upset and the hormones are flying around her body, she’ll be quicker to react to the next frightening thing she sees.

2. Make Distance

If your child had a fear of spiders you wouldn’t keep confronting him with the wiggly beasties. So, for the time being, avoid confrontations with other dogs. Walk where you won’t have dogs “in your face”. Turn and go the other direction when a dog is walking towards you along the street. Just knowing that she never has to meet another dog or person will take a lot of the pressure off your dog and allow her to keep calm.

 

3. Get rid of any gadgets or collars that hurt her

It stands to reason that if, every time you saw a red van someone choked you with a prong or chain collar or – worse still – gave you an electric shock, you would soon get very anxious about red vans. You would try to get away from them, and if you saw one coming you’d probably start to scream in fear of the anticipated pain. So ditch all those things that people tell you are the answer, and just have your dog on a comfortable, soft, flat collar and a good length lead so she can move freely.

 

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4. Change her Perception of Dogs and People

Before you set out on your walk, load your pockets with tasty treats that you know your dog will sell her soul for. Tiny cubes of cheese or hot dog will do the trick, or high-quality grain-free treats may work. Every time you see something coming, pause - and post treats into your dog’s mouth as she watches them. Treat, treat, treat … very fast. Be sure you keep beyond the distance at which she usually gets worried. Stop feeding once the hazard has gone away. If you are consistent with this, she’ll soon see a strange dog or person, turn to you and say, “Where’s my treat?” Result!

 

5. Still afraid your dog may bite?

You need to find a certified force-free trainer who understands how to help fearful dogs. Be aware that using any sort of force or punishment in this situation will make things worse. If your dog has already bitten or you’re really afraid she will, you can acclimatise your dog gently to a basket muzzle. Use the system at no.4 above so that she is delighted at the sight of her muzzle. The muzzle has the added benefit of keeping people and their dogs at a distance – just what you want for now!

Follow Steps 1 – 4 above and you’ll start to build your dog’s confidence and be able to enjoy your walks again.

 

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Can Choice Training help my Reactive - Growly - Dog?

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One of the interesting things I’ve observed recently is how much simple Choice Training changes life for those of us blessed with a Growly Dog - a reactive, anxious, aggressive, dog.

Of course, I always knew that! But it’s great to hear it come back from students and folk on my recent Workshop. That was all about Choice Training - training your dog by offering him a choice instead of telling him what to do.

And the results have been remarkable for many people!

They were surprised - and delighted! - to find that their growly dog was much better able to cope after only a couple of days of trying this new approach. Well, it was new for many of them …

Plenty of ideas in this free 8-lesson email course for changing your life with your dog!

   

How can a few simple games change my reactive dog?

What happens is that - through offering your dog a choice and not continually “commanding” him what to do - you build a completely new relationship with your pet!

No longer are you yelling and dancing, coaxing and cajoling, to try and get what you want. Instead you have a happy companionship where your dog is keen to do what you want because it’s what he wants too!

What I love about this way of training is that the dog doesn’t have to “be trained” at all. So how does the change happen? By you, the OWNER, changing!

Simple as that! Once you change your ways, your dog will just change with you.

And while you’re building up this amazing new bond between you, your anxious dog is getting less anxious, your reactive dog is able to cope much better with his fears, and your aggressive dog finds that - with you on his side - he doesn’t need to be aggressive any more.

I love my dog but …

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Many people come to me saying “I love my dog to bits, but …” What’s happening is that they undoubtedly do love their dog, but they don’t actually understand why he’s doing what he does. They know there’s a disconnect there, but are unaware how to fix it.

Once they start using Choice Training, things change fast. They become a team with their dog. They can now love him with understanding and empathy.

When I’m working with Growly Dogs specifically, I use a lot of strategies and techniques to achieve the desired change in the dog’s behaviour. But these are all based in giving him a choice and letting him decide on a good course of action.

When you have very young children, you have to show them and teach them all the time. Once your child is older, you’re no longer saying “do this, do that,” but you are backing them up in the informed choices that they are now able to make. This is what I aspire to for my Growly Dog students. That they can work together with their challenging dog to get the results they want.

One of the best things about Choice Training is that you can start it with your new puppy when he comes through the door at 7-8 weeks old. People used to say (some unenlightened people still say …) that you can’t train a puppy till it’s 6 months old. Why? It’s simply that the type of training they’re thinking of - harsh, punishment-based training involving physical pain - would be too tough on a puppy.

Why use it on any dog??? It’s quite unnecessary, as you’ll see from any of the 130-odd articles on this site, not to mention the many books, the audiobooks, and my free - as well as paid - programs.

And if a training technique won't work for a toddler, then it likely won't work for a dog —Stanley Coren

Take a look at this post which goes into the whole subject in great detail. There are some academic resources listed there for those of you who want to dig deep!

The fact remains, if you can treat your dog with the same courtesy, kindness and respect that you give to any toddler, then you’ll get the results you want!

Plenty of ideas in this free 8-lesson email course for changing your life with your dog!

   

 

 

 

Is it possible for a dog to be reactive to the unexpected?

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I had a great question recently:

“Is it possible for a dog to be reactive to quiet and ‘the unexpected’?”

The person who posed this question was puzzled that their dog seemed able to cope with busy or noisy situations, but would react violently to any sight or sound when the environment was otherwise empty or quiet. The owner was worried that his dog may be unusual or wrong in some way.

As I answered, it became clear that quite a few owners of reactive dogs are puzzled by this. So I’m giving you my answer as it may answer a question that you have too!

 

This is a good question! It baffles and misleads a lot of people.  

Picture this: you are visiting your local shops. It’s afternoon, the shops are busy, there are mothers with pushchairs, delivery vans, people with shopping bags, boys on bikes … How do you feel?

Absolutely fine and comfortable, I’d bet.

Now imagine you go there at 1 in the morning. The place is deserted. You hear footsteps getting louder, and peering into the gloom you can just make out a figure heading towards you. How do you feel?

Most of us would be on high alert at the very least, possibly really alarmed.

The same man ambling through the crowds in the afternoon probably wouldn’t have bothered you at all.

There is a technical name for this - it’s SEC or Sudden Environmental Change.

Dogs are designed to spot things which are different, things which shouldn’t be there. They can single out something amiss and focus intently on it. This is one reason why they have earned their place in our homes down the ages. They are alarm sensors!

So your dog is behaving absolutely normally.

 

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Sudden Environmental Change? Wha’?

There is a reason so many of our working dogs are so useful in their work. Take German Shepherds for instance, who can spot an intruder or an escaping criminal in a split-second, and take action.

Border Collies, those wonderful sheep-herders, can instantly spot a ewe whose ear is twitching in the wrong direction, indicating that she’s about to break and take the flock with her. The Collie can get round in an instant to block the ewe and make sure she keeps going in the right direction.

In the image at the top of the page, young Coco Poodle just has to check out this strange sign in an otherwise green and empty landscape.

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Sighthounds can spot the tiniest movement in a still place at a huge distance. Something moving in the landscape could well be dinner!

Dogs searching for evidence may not have a specific scent or object in mind - they’re just looking for something that shouldn’t be there.

And this is why your dog may react dramatically to the doorbell, or a car door slamming outside your home.

WHO IS THIS?

WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE?

ARE WE UNDER THREAT?

For this ability alone, dogs have earnt their place by our fireplaces for so many thousands of years - it’s about 30,000 years, in fact.

Dogs’ gifts

The fact is that the hearing and sight capabilities of the dog so far outweigh our own. When it comes to their noses, they are unparalleled, and are the reason dogs are an important tool for the police, and in airports and ports worldwide. They’re far quicker at discovering evidence and identifying contraband than much of the sophisticated machinery also in use!

Is it possible for a dog to be reactive to quiet?

Window barking and fence running

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I can’t tell you how many owners of reactive dogs tell me their dog is a nightmare because he barks all day at the window.

“He barks at the window at everything he sees”

“He looks out of the window all day, if anyone comes past he barks and barks.”

“He spends his days attacking my front window as people pass by”

Or races up and down the garden barking at anything the other side of the fence.

He also fence fights with our neighbour’s dogs when they are out so that is a daily challenge”

“The biggest issue is that whenever our neighbours walk past our garden fence she goes on the defensive, jumping up the fence to try and get to them”

He will run the fence if allowed”

There are two problems here

1. The dog is driving the owner mad, so there’s disharmony in the house, frustration from both owner and dog, maybe wrecked furniture or lawn, worry about what the neighbours think.

and

2. The dog is continually wound up like a coiled spring. He’s getting no rest, and his cortisol levels (that’s the fight or flight thing) are continually elevated.

 

We all know how an overtired toddler is impossible to manage. Dogs are the exact same. This dog who spends his days on guard duty at the window, straining for any movement he can see, then leaping about scrabbling and barking at the window, is getting no rest. He’s getting tenser and tenser.

By the time you set out on your walk with him he’s already on his toes, on full alert! There’s little chance of escaping your outing without some kind of incident - barking and lunging at anything that moves, and going nuts on sight of a dog, or a bicycle, or whatever upsets your dog.

The dog who heads out to the garden for a quiet sniff about is not going to get that if he’s hurtling up and down the fence screaming at anything the other side.

I’d go so far as to say that you are going to have little impact on changing your walks to calm, quiet, and enjoyable, if you don’t first fix these problems at home.

So how on earth can I stop it?

Like most problems, it’s always best to prevent it even starting. But that’s with 20/20 hindsight! If you’ve already got this as an established problem, it’s no help to you to say don’t let it start!

But you can mostly certainly change it. For good.

Let’s start with the windows

You need to prevent your dog’s access to the windows that are causing the problem. Probably the front windows. So first stop is not to let him in that room unless you are with him to manage the situation. If you’ve got a tiny home, or an open-plan one, you may find baby gates help (baby gates are most definitely the dog-owner’s friend!).

Or move to Plan B. Which is to use window film! This wonderful invention will still allow light into your home, but present a fuzzy image to your dog. He can only see something really close up to the window, not out on the street. You can get all sorts of designs, and it’s really easy to apply - and just to whip off when you want (you won’t want: you’ll be so pleased with the calm it brings you’ll never want to take it off!).

And you don’t need to cover the whole window. Just the part your dog can see out of.

You may need to move your furniture about a bit, so he doesn’t have a handy perch!

So window-barking is now eliminated! Hooray. You’ll wonder how you ever stood it before. And you will see a distinct difference in your dog who is now getting something approaching the 17 hours (yes, seventeen hours) of sleep he should have every day for optimum health and lowered stress.

“But I don’t want to cover my windows!” Then unless you can keep your dog away from them another way, you will continue this mad barking and over-stimulation, which will prevent you making the important changes in your reactive dog’s behaviour out of doors! Your choice …

So what about fence-running?

Putting film on your fence is not going to work!

If you can, talk to your neighbours and arrange things so that you are all not driven mad. See what this resourceful student does to prevent these senseless and energy-sapping battles at the fence:

“My neighbour and I text each other for the all clear before letting them out!”

Those of you without such amenable and sensible neighbours will have to manage it all by yourself. Careful observation of your neighbour’s timetable will help.

 But in any case, you will always be out in the garden with your dog!

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If necessary, you could have her on lead. It’s essential to teach your dog a new way of being in the garden. You’ll find simple counterconditioning very helpful. You just post treats into your dog’s mouth whenever there’s something over the fence that worries her. This way you’ll change her emotional response to the frightening thing.

You may have to start this from inside the house! Wherever your dog is calm enough to take treats will get you started.  

No more barking and screaming!

These problems are very simply solved. Note I didn’t say “easily”. It takes application and observation. But the solutions are simple and straightforward.

All it needs is a little effort on your part, and the deafening noises, frantic behaviour, and over-arousal, will all be a thing of the past.

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Can you help my Reactive dog?

Yes, there is a way to change your reactive dog and enjoy walks again - all force-free and dog-friendly | FREE 5 DAY ONLINE WORKSHOP |  #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

This is a question I get all the time!

You get a dog for your life and for your family because of all the pleasure it’s going to bring you.

You’ll be able to care for another creature, teach her and nurture her. You’ll be able to go for long tramps across hill and dale, enjoy a coffee at your local cafe, with friends. You’ll be proud to show off your dog to visitors to your home, and go for group walks with others and their pets in the park.

NOT.

It just didn’t work out that way for you.

Your dog is difficult. She barks at all comers. She shows her teeth to other dogs. You daren’t let her off the lead for fear of what may happen. And as for sitting quietly in a coffee shop or enjoying family visiting your home … that seems a pipe-dream.

And naturally you are grieving for the loss of your dog. The dog you thought you were getting.

I get that. I really do.

But all is not lost!

You really can enjoy many of those things. But you have to change a few things first.

 You think I mean you have to change your dog, don’t you!

Train him to within an inch of his life. Stop him pulling on the lead. Force him to change his attitude to other dogs, bikes, joggers, visitors …

But no, I don’t mean that.

What you have to do is change what you’re thinking! Yes, really! It’s not about teaching your dog a different way to be. It’s about looking at a different way YOU can be. A better way to reach your dog’s mind and make the changes you so devoutly desire.

Many people come to me in a state of near-despair. They think it’s all their dog’s fault. Or they think it’s all their fault.

Can you imagine the relief when they find that it’s neither their dog’s fault NOR their fault?

And the flood of relief they get when they find how easy it can be to change things - once they make the changes to their own thoughts first!

Results

I absolutely love it when I get emails like this one:

“Zoe is so much better in every way – much calmer, gaining confidence, more trusting of life. Thank you Beverley, for being there, and for all you do.”

Or how about this one?

“These training sessions with you really have been invaluable and Romy’s really benefitted so thank you very, very much from the three of us.”

 Or even this:

“The best thing that has come out of this program is that our relationship has just grown and grown – we both trust each other and look out for each other.”

I am touched that I have been able to help these good people and their equally good dogs!

And their results came mainly from how those owners changed their own thoughts and feelings about the whole “reactive dog” thing.

What to do next?

So, in an effort to reach more of you, and to help transform the lives of even more dogs and their people, I’m running a 5 Day Live Workshop specially for Growly Dogs (that’s shy, anxious, reactive, or aggressive, dogs) - entirely free.

I’d love you to come along and start on your own new journey with your much-loved dog.

Click here to find out just what you’ll get and how to sign up!

Yes, there is a way to change your reactive dog and enjoy walks again - all force-free and dog-friendly | FREE 5 DAY ONLINE WORKSHOP |  #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

“I was feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, stressed and isolated. I felt like a failure because I did not know how to help my reactive dog ..... and then, one fine day, I found Beverley Courtney.”

 

This could be your story too!