How Lacy helps other dogs

Learning how my reactive dog thought made all the difference to how she acted. The relationship blossomed and our lives changed | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

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

Even as a young puppy Lacylu scared people. They would cling to each other and cross the road when they saw her coming.

She looked like a brown bear cub. In no way was she a petite or cute pup, though she did have a very pretty face – still does.

But it was clear from very early on that she was going to struggle in an urban world, full of people, other dogs, things that go bang in the night …

As she matured Lulubelle became more, not less, difficult. She reckoned that she needed to protect the 3,000 acres around us, starting at my feet. Anyone or anything that hove into view prompted ferocious barking - and if she was able she would chase them away.

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

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I know just what it’s like to be a pariah. I’ve had the wrath of ignorant people rain down on me when my dog has barked and lunged toward them. If only they could understand what a gentle and loving dog she really is!

And this is where my lessons began

I’d been training dogs for competition for many years, and after lots of study, I had opened my dog training school the year before, at an age when many people are slowing down and switching off – not studying, sitting exams, learning about SEO, public indemnity insurance, and payment systems!

So Lulu arrived at a very good time for me (and, I think, for her).

I started learning about fearful dogs, anxious dogs, aggressive dogs, Growly Dogs; guardy dogs, nervous dogs, barky dogs (Lacy loves to bark); people’s fears, people’s reactions, people’s emotions.

Learning how my reactive dog thought made all the difference to how she acted. The relationship blossomed and our lives changed | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

I was voracious – all the available methods were scrutinised and run past my personal ethos. Many were dismissed out of hand as being harsh or even cruel. Some were hard to assimilate into everyday life. Some were ineffectual. Finally I found the best of the best and focused my energies on developing my skills there, and building my own system.

  • I learnt why anxious dogs behave as they do

  • I learnt kind techniques that put a worried dog at ease – CLUE: the first step is always distance!

  • I learnt how to keep people away without causing them to panic

  • And – most important – I learnt how to help other people with their “growly” dogs

Lacy’s now able to look at a strange person or dog and move on. She logs their position carefully, just in case they should try anything … but she can pass them peacefully. (She’s never bitten anyone.)

My fluffy bear cub has come so far in a few years – and is helping others like her to gain confidence and give their owners at the other end of the lead a bit of peace. Both dog and owner learn new coping skills together.

Helping my dog get over her fears has led to a better life for so many more dogs!

Once the poor harassed owners learn that their much-loved dog is not nasty or vicious a new life opens up before them.

It certainly did for me!

 

Your first step towards your new life with your growly dog is in this free e-course

     

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Are two puppies better than one?

Make sure your dogs get as much attention as they need while you focus on your new dog! Juggling the needs of individual dogs in a multi-dog household takes skill and thought | FREE EMAIL COURSE |  #newpuppy, #twodogs, #littermates, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

People often come to me with problems with their two (or more) dogs.

They tell me they got two dogs usually for one of these reasons:

  • The first puppy was so cute and adorable they just had to get another.

  • They’re at work all day and feel guilty about the dog being alone.

  • They just thought it would be twice as much fun.

  • They got one for each child and mum ended up with both of them …

  • They were pressured into it by the “breeder” (this is a common puppy farm ploy) and were sorry for the puppy being left behind.

So there often wasn’t too much thought involved, and little prior research!

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Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have two or more dogs - as long as you have the time for them. I have four, and I know lots of people with two+ very happy dogs.

 But what you need to know is that it isn’t necessarily plain sailing!

 

You can’t just get another dog or pup and toss it into the mix and let it sink or swim! There could be lasting bad fallout from this. Either the older dogs (who never asked for another dog in the family) are pestered mercilessly till their temper frays and they snap at the youngster. Or - possibly worse - the two dogs become such firm friends that the newer dog has no relationship with you whatsoever, and is wild.

Keep ‘em apart!

What many people don’t realise is that you have to rear the new dog largely separate from the present incumbent.

This is fairly easy with a puppy as they’re on a completely different sleep and feeding schedule from your older dog, and need to be kept to limited space for sleep and housetraining purposes. Walks should be solo so that you can keep up your relationship with your older dog and develop one with the newcomer. Yes, it requires double the work, but you end up with two dogs who enjoy each others’ company, but enjoy you most of all!

To find out exactly how to introduce a new puppy into your household of one or more dogs, read this post

Littermates

But the big trouble comes when people get two puppies at once. Or they get another puppy when the first is only a few months old.

They expect them to entertain each other, to save them the bother of doing it themselves. They let them roll and scrap all day long. They leave them more or less alone together. When the lunatics begin to take over the asylum, they don’t know who is responsible for which misdemeanour. So they either ignore the poor behaviour and let it develop and grow, or they punish both puppies just to be sure, to be sure.

They don’t know how much either pup is sleeping, how much he’s eating, and who is producing which poo (important to keep an eye on this for health reasons).

In any relationship, one tends to make the decisions and the other tends to follow. What will happen to your shyer pup if you lose the bolder one? It could take years for the remaining dog to recover from the loss.

So can I get a second dog?

Broadly speaking, yes - if you follow these guidelines:

  • Your first dog should already have reached maturity - 1 to 2 years old for most dogs. The larger the breed, the slower they are to mature.

  • You must follow a program of relationship-building between the two dogs, and each dog and you. This takes TIME! Follow the guidance in this post

  • You need to focus most of your attention on the new puppy for his critical first year. Have you enough time to go round?

  • Before you even consider adding another dog in to your home, read this series of posts on how to choose the right dog for you.

  • If you fall for your heart’s or your child’s or the puppy salesperson’s nagging and get two littermates - you really have your work cut out! Follow the guidance in the linked post. Sleep the puppies in separate crates, maybe separate rooms, feed separately, walk separately, go on socialisation outings separately, separate handlers in puppy class - or separate classes, play separately, and so on. Of course they can interact with each other, but a good rule of thumb is to allow ⅓ the amount of time for playing together as you can give each individual puppy. Yup. That means they get to play together for 20’ in the day, perhaps 5’ at a time, as long as you can give each dog 1 hour of your time. And that play must always be actively supervised!

Still want to get two puppies?? 

There is a way to make the introduction of a second dog into your home work well. Juggling the needs of individual dogs in a multi-dog household takes skill and thought | FREE EMAIL COURSE |  #newpuppy, #twodogs, #littermates, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Follow these guidelines and you’ll end up with two well-balanced, and possibly well-trained dogs (that depends entirely on how much time you put into training them!), who respond to you.

And for more helpful and dog-friendly advice - on what to do with the critters once you have them! - get our free 8-part email course here.

 

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

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My dog knows he's done wrong

Dogs don’t do things for no reason - learn their language! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #puppytraining, #dogbodylanguage | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

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

Dogs don’t “look guilty” - learn their language and communicate better with your pet!  | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #puppytraining, #dogbodylanguage | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

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!

Dogs don’t “look guilty” - learn their language and communicate better with your pet!  | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #puppytraining, #dogbodylanguage | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

◆   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.

Pins Maxx Payne.pngCan you enjoy walks with your reactive dog again? Change some of the things you’re doing and see the change in your dog! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #anxiousdog, #fearfuldog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

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?

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

     

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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.

 

It’s not the dog that has to change! Change your own mindset and change your dog!  | FREE EMAIL COURSE |  #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #anxiousdog, #fearfuldog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

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.

 

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

     

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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 …

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

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!