aggressive dog

Why can’t I take my dog to the fair?

Here are some thoughts on how to enjoy an outing with your dog, just as you planned when you got your dog! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #anxiousdog, #overfriendlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Well … maybe you can. Maybe you have a bombproof dog who loves everyone and likes nothing more than all the busyness, noise, and goings-on at your local summer fete.

Then again, maybe your dog is like most dogs, and finds traipsing round a hot and busy fairground, on a short lead, with children screaming, people laughing, smells of burgers, spilt chips in the grass you won’t let him eat, loudspeakers blaring - a complete nightmare.

You can’t put him back in the car as it’s way too hot. So your unhappy dog is stuck with this for as long as you choose to stay at the event. Hot, bothered, fed up.

Now this is where you’ll send me a photo of your dog on your last outing, quietly standing beside you. All the more surprising to you because your dog is usually wary of strangers and other dogs, and seemed to be “absolutely fine” in the midst of thousands of them.

“He’s fine!” you’ll assure me.

But it’s very likely that this change in behaviour was not down to him “being fine”, rather that he’s “shut down”. This is a coping mechanism we all employ when overwhelmed.

We become subdued, we stay quiet, make ourselves small. We hope not to be noticed, spoken to, or challenged.

It’s a form of learned helplessness.

We know that nothing we do will change the situation, so we give up. Surrender to our fate. But it doesn’t mean we’re enjoying it!

Your dog, as I so often say, is the exact same. He finds himself in a situation he can’t handle. With hundreds of people, children, dogs, in close proximity, he knows he can’t employ his usual methods of requesting space - barking, lunging, screaming, snarling - which work like a charm at removing the approaching thing from their path, or getting themselves removed by an embarrassed owner.

Watch and wait

Put some planning into place when you are visiting an exciting event with your dog, so that it goes as smoothly as you planned when you first got him! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #anxiousdog, #overfriendlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Some dogs will be much happier out of the thick of things, on the sidelines where they can safely observe what’s in front of them without having to scan the full 360° (see there’s nothing behind this puppy in the picture - she only needs to check in front of her).

He will also appreciate you watching how he is (soft mouth, soft ears and shoulders, no gasping panting, head not dropped, no twitchiness or slinking about) and removing him from the situation after maybe as little as three minutes. And yes, you can’t plonk him in the hot car or you’ll have a worse problem! Take him home.

You may be surprised that even your very friendly dog finds a busy outing a bit too much. Continually being restrained from jumping all over a thousand new friends who must want to meet him, will wear him out!

If you’re planning on visiting a big event, put your dog in training for the occasion. You can start with a walk past the local shops, sitting at the other end of a school road at school-out time, a shopping centre car park on a quiet day, a busier day, a Saturday …

Don’t plunge him into a new and strange environment, which could cause him distress, without finding out beforehand how he’s going to manage.

Then you can amend your plans accordingly. We can enjoy our family outings, but we don’t necessarily need to take our dog.

Here are some more articles which will help you understand just what’s going on with your dog when you’re out and about:

How to get calmer dogwalks

How heat can affect your dog’s coping skills

How to plan a successful day out with your dog

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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

 

My dog doesn’t need a muzzle

Should my sighthound wear a muzzle? I’m worried that people will think my dog is aggressive and I’m a bad dog-owner! Find out the truth here | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #greyhound, #exracinggreyhound, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #dogmuzzle, #dogmuzzletraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Oh yes. He does!

All dogs need to be familiar with a muzzle and accept it without demur. There are lots of reasons for this - safety round other dogs, keeping other dog-owners away, scavenging and picking up stones and slugs, for treatment at the vets - the list goes on.

I think a lot of the antipathy to muzzles is because of some wrong thinking. People think that if a dog is muzzled it is dangerous. In fact, it’s the safest dog around! His armoury is all behind closed doors.

But people seldom think this through. That doesn’t matter when we’re talking about other people. But when we’re talking about you, the owner, it does matter!

Why do owners resist teaching their dog to wear a muzzle, and why should they anyway?

I go into detail on this subject in my post at https://www.brilliantfamilydog.com/blog/should-my-dog-wear-a-muzzle

So here I want to focus on the most depressing thing I see.

Greyhounds

I know personally of two gruesome cases where unmuzzled greyhounds attacked a small pet dog. In one case a beloved puppy was ripped to pieces in front of his family. In the other case a small dog was almost pulled apart by two unmuzzled greyhounds but rescued by brave passers-by. It took many months of care from her vet and her distraught owner for her physical wounds to heal, and her PTSD-type memories are still needing work, years later.

It’s fashionable for people to adopt ex-racing greyhounds. These dogs are usually spent by about 3-5 years of age (if successful) and earlier if they were not winning.

Sighthounds are naturally quiet and biddable most of the time. They can make great pets in the home. They like to sleep 23 hours a day,  wake up for a bit of food then go back to sleep.

But you have to remember:

 

These dogs are killing machines

Now before you throw up your hands in horror and stuff my inbox with complaints, think about what they have experienced all their lives. They have been trained to chase down anything small, fluffy, or fast-moving, and kill it. That’s what they’re bred for, and that’s what they are encouraged to do.

They are muzzled from an early age, usually with comfortable, light, racing muzzles that allow them to pant freely and drink.

In some countries, greyhounds must be kept on lead at all times in public, and the number of greyhounds led at a time is limited. In some countries also, greyhounds need to be muzzled at all times.

To be fair, some of the greyhound adoption agencies recommend that at least to start with your ex-racer should be muzzled in public, though it’s not the law in most of the UK (Northern Ireland excepted - where all sighthounds must be muzzled in public). It’s so easy, because it’s what they’re used to!

Your newly-adopted ex-racing greyhound is an unknown quantity to you. You need to take precautions for many months before you know whether you have one of the lazy ones who couldn’t be bothered to chase anything, or one whose switch can be flipped in a second, triggering a chase that no dog or cat can escape.

The owner of the greyhounds in one of the instances I mentioned above had only had her two dogs for a couple of weeks. She had NO idea how dangerous they were, singly, and together. The adoption agency had not told her anything about the dangers, only that these were gentle pets. This nonsensical approach caused the horrible incident where the new elderly owner watched - screaming helplessly -  while her two new dogs attempted to pull the small dog apart.

She was traumatised by the event, paid the victim dog owner’s vet bills, and returned the dogs immediately to the adoption agency.

Unnecessary suffering

These horrors were totally unnecessary!

 

  • If the adoption people had faced the truth and told it to the new owners;

  •   If the new owners had had the sense they were born with and took steps to take the firing pin out of their dangerous weapons;

  • If an inexperienced elderly lady had not taken on two large dogs trained to kill;

  • And if owners of small dogs were aware of the danger;

 

all this may not have happened.

 

Small-dog owners need to take care

Should my sighthound wear a muzzle? I’m worried that people will think my dog is aggressive and I’m a bad dog-owner! Find out the truth here | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #greyhound, #exracinggreyhound, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #dogmuzzle, #dogmuzzletraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

My smallest dog is fluffy and fast. So whenever I see ex-racing greyhounds on my travels, Coco Poodle is either close to my feet on lead, or I pick him up, to remove the instinctive visual chase response from the hounds.

And before you all sharpen your quills and dip them into poison ink, I declare that I have a sighthound too. She was never raced, but her chasing instincts are strong. See the power in her leap! But yes, she does sleep most of the time!

More commonsense tips to be found in this free 8-lesson email course to get you started with your dog

     

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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?

Training your dog with choice is much easier and more effective than you may have thought | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

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!

   

 

 

 

Are you thinking of neutering your dog?

Do you plan to neuter your dog as the automatic next step? Think again! Neutering can have a lot of unwanted effects on your pet. | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #doghealth, #dogneutering, #dogspaying | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

There’s a lot more to neutering than just preventing procreation. A huge lot more. But people seldom consider these side-effects in their dogs when deciding to get them “fixed”.

I actually hate that term “fixed”. It suggests that the dog arrived in some way faulty and has to have his or her insides rearranged to make him or her acceptable. This is crazy!

The dog arrives in a perfect state. If we want to alter our dog to suit ourselves, we should be prepared to admit this to ourselves and not in some way blame the dog for being wrong.

There are times when neutering is a good idea and times when it is a very, very bad idea. I’ll break these down for you, in terms of the effects.

How will neutering affect my dog’s body?

There are some medical issues where neutering is the wisest or only course to keep the dog healthy - or just alive. Infection of the uterus in a bitch, and an undescended testicle in a dog would be two of these. One is acute, the other chronic.

There are arguments that this or that cancer or condition is more likely in an unneutered dog. But there are arguments of equal weight which say that this or that other cancer or condition is more likely in a neutered dog. The percentages are tiny in either case.

The other thing to consider here is how removal of the sex hormones affect the physical development of the dog’s skeleton. The growth plates close with sexual maturity, somewhere around 9-18 months of age. So the effect of early neutering - before this age - can be relative elongation of the long bones and consequent disruption of articulation in the joints. The net result can be less efficient movement (no good if you got your dog for working or performance) and then joint problems in later years (no good for anyone).

For help with your reactive, anxious, aggressive, “growly” dog, get our free email course here.

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For this reason alone I think that neutering of either sex shouldn’t be contemplated till the dog is sexually mature. For bitches that would mean a few months after the first season at the earliest. Dogs would need to be 10 months to 3 years, depending largely on the size of the breed. The larger the dog, the longer it takes to mature.

I have now reached the limit of my medical knowledge, so I’ll move on to an area where I’m more comfortable!

How will neutering affect my dog’s mind?

The key thing for me is the effects neutering can have on how your dog is, on a day-to-day basis.

Many people believe that neutering their dog will calm them down. In fact, studies have shown that the opposite is true! Your neutered dog or bitch is likely to be more excitable than an intact dog. So please kick that one to the kerb.

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There has been a lot of scientific research over recent years. Studies have to cover a lot of dogs for a lot of years to be of any use, so they take a long time to emerge. I list a load of them in the Resources below. 

My main interest is how neutering can affect reactivity. As you’ll see from some of these studies, neutering can have a big impact on this!

“It has been shown, in a number of recent scientific studies, that neutering - especially early neutering - will increase sound sensitivity, touch sensitivity, fears, and aggression, in both males and females. In some cases that increase is “significant” or “highly significant”. People-directed aggression in females, for instance, was significantly elevated in the neutered bitches studied. (See the Resources Section for chapter and verse on this.) That’s what those studies found. A lot more research is needed to get more answers, and these studies can take years to produce reliable results.

These unfortunate outcomes are - of course - not guaranteed to happen if you neuter your dog! But it’s important to be aware that they just may happen. And if they complicate an already complicated situation, that’s not helpful.

Neutering has the potential to make your dog worse.”

From Essential Skills for your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog

In brief, neutering a dog when he is experiencing fear of anything in the world around him (i.e. he responds to novelty or movement with barking, lunging, trembling, hiding … any action that does not demonstrate confidence) has the potential to make him MORE fearful.

And neutering a female who is already showing fear of other dogs has the potential to make her reactive to people as well after spaying.

You’ll see the facts and figures in the studies below.

If you’ve already neutered your pet, that’s water under the bridge. You can’t change it now.

BUT if you’re happily planning to neuter your dog simply because you think society expects it of you, or your vet suggests it as the automatic next step, please think again.

Once it’s done, it’s done. And if it changes your beloved dog’s nature and makes life harder for both of you, then you’re up the creek without a paddle.

But you have to neuter your dog, don’t you?

And what about the chief reason usually given for choosing to neuter? It’s to do with reproduction. Preventing unwanted puppies. It could also be to prevent bitching, wandering, fighting in males. But responsible management will do this for you! If you’re reading this post, it’s unlikely that your dog is wandering abroad without you knowing where he or she is.

Since neutering became the big thing - the answer to the stray dog problem - has anyone noticed the shelters getting empty? Irresponsible dog-owners will neither neuter their dogs nor contain them. I’m afraid there’s a lot of “preaching to the choir” here. And the fallout is that a lot of dogs’ lives have been unnecessarily altered for the worse, because of only partial education.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

You need to see the whole picture before making what is essentially a fundamental and momentous decision about the future of the dog in your care.

I’m suggesting that you need to change your mindset from neutering being an automatic next step for your puppy to seeing that you have a choice in this.

In some European countries it is considered barbaric to mutilate dogs, and neutering of either sex is usually only done for medical reasons. At the other extreme we have cultures where people are vociferous in declaring that all dogs should be neutered and it is our duty as a citizen to do this. I’ve had people writing to me from these countries asking if that’s a thing? You can actually NOT neuter your dog? Unheard-of.

In case you think I am on a mission to ban neutering, I can tell you that only one of my four dogs is entire at the time of writing. You have to decide what is right for your situation. I just want you to realise that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and you do have a choice.

RESOURCES

The effects of neutering on health and behaviour: a summary



Neutering Causes Behavior Problems in Male Dogs

Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris)

Summary of findings detailed in a Masters thesis submitted to and accepted by Hunter College by Parvene Farhoody in May, 2010

 

Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas

AVMA, Vol 244, No. 3, February 1, 2014

M. Christine Zink DVM PhD, Parvene Farhoody MA, Samra E. Elser BS, Lynda D. Ruffini, Tom A. Gibbons MS, Randall H. Rieger PhD

 

Non-reproductive Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Behavior in Dogs

Deborah L. Duffy PhD, and James A. Serpell PhD

Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

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