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Posts Tagged ‘dog aggression’

My gorgeous boy

Little Bear and I have clocked up our fair share of trainers and behaviourists over the past five years.  The first trainer turned out to be a major part of the problem with her ‘yank it round the neck till it behaves approach’ and subscription to the ridiculous dominance theory.  From there I sought help only from qualified APDT registered trainers but even then had mixed results.

One just told me to keep him away from all other dogs and refused to explain any of the theory to me on the grounds that I wasn’t a professional and wouldn’t understand.  The next one was good, if a little superior but so busy I had to wait literally months between appointments, which was little use to me.

Lack of people skills

There were others in-between and classes too but a thing I’ve noticed about a lot of professional trainers is their complete lack of people skills. Yes, we, the novice dog owning population can be ignorant idiots and I do appreciate that when you love dogs enough to devote your career to them, it must be hugely frustrating to see them so mis-managed by people who just don’t understand them.

Click

After five years of looking, I’ve finally found two trainers who get it. Specialising in aggression issues, they use kind, effective methods and focus on helping dogs learn appropriate behaviours through socialisation with teaching dogs who have impeccable canine communication skills.

Little Bear has been going to the fortnightly Shy Guys group for a few months now and he’s making real progress.  Their kind effective approach extends to both ends of the lead and the results seem to speak for themselves. The groups are really popular and I think that’s down to the fact that the trainers obviously understand that in order to help the dog, they first have to help the human.

Find out more at http://www.dogcommunication.co.uk/

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Mini Schnauzer Little Bear sitting in a field

Little Bear in his Spring clip

As anyone with a reactive dog knows, a walk is anything but relaxing.  I go out kitted up with clicker (+spare clickers should the first one break or get lost), treat bag (+ back up treats just in case) squeaky balls (+back ups) and a pet corrector for real emergencies.  Thats as well as the poo bags, ball chucker, wet wipes etc etc. I know all of the fields and parks in the area and a bit like Jason Bourne in the Bourne Identity, every exit and roughly how long it will take us to get to it should we need to.

I can also spot an ‘It’s okay, my dog’s fine’ owner a mile off. Maybe you know the type? They’re the ones with the big lumbering dogs that flatten yours while their owners laugh and say things like “It’s okay, he’s only playing.” Gee thanks, but what about mine?!

They seem oblivious to the fact that you might be trying to avoid them or that in letting their friendly lummox of a dog ‘play’ with yours without checking first, they might be putting your behaviour training back weeks if not months.  For all they know, they might even be putting their dog at risk of serious physical or emotional harm.  Even when you call your dog, pop him on a lead and walk quickly in the other direction, they STILL don’t get the hint!

Real treat

So, today was a real treat!

As we went into the field, two Huskies bounded up to the gate. Little Bear froze and whined and then looked at me which in itself was a fantastic result as he looked to me instead of kicking off!  His reward was a swift retreat away from the thing that was worrying him.

The owner looked a bit miffed and said a bit tersely ‘It’s fine! They were brought up with Schnauzers.’ We get this a lot.  People we big dogs or bull breeds often assume I’m being a breedist in avoiding them and I don’t usually get the opportunity to clarify, but with LB at a distance he was comfortable with and happily hoovering up treats from the floor, I was able to explain over the fence that it wasn’t his dogs I was concerned about, but my own.

Penny dropped, he walked his dogs away from the gate so that we could come in. With LB in ‘stuff your face with treats mode’ he was happy to focus on me and we passed the Huskies without incident.

Great manners 

We had a lovely walk, LB exploring and snacking on grass here and there, then chasing the ball and working on his retrieve.  Whenever I see another dog I don’t know, I pop him on a lead.  I do this partly because of his bullying towards timid dogs but also because it’s just good manners.

To my delight, another other dog walker on seeing me pop LB on the lead as they approached immediately called his dog and popped its leads on too.  A mutual round of ‘thank yous’ later and we went our separate ways.

Seconds later, we saw the Huskies again and as soon as he saw us, their owner recalled them, popped them on their leads and asked for a sit.  Little Bear was fantastic and again passed without even a grumble. I thanked the owner again and we even had time for a quick chat about the joys of training and what a difference well-mannered owners made.

This may seem silly, but this truly made my day.  As anyone with a reactive dog will know, it can sometimes feel like your best intentions get undermined by other people’s assumption that all dogs are friendly and docile. They are also usually the first people to tut-tut and mutter things about ‘always the owners fault’ as your dog gets tipped over the edge and aggresses because they feel so threatened by the situation that the tut-tutter has unwittingly helped kick off.

Nature vs. Nurture 

As I’ve come to learn, nurture can only do so much and nature has a heavy hand in deciding a dogs temperament.  Just like people, some dogs have a shorter fuse than others and try as we might, there’s no way of changing that, we can only manage it as best we can by giving them the tools and support to cope with the things they find threatening or frustrating.  But owners need support too and as I found out today, a little help and understanding from fellow dog lovers can go a long long way.

 

 

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Our school motto was ‘Manners maketh man’. Now I didn’t go to a posh private school, quite the opposite in fact, but we, my peers and I were brought up to understand that manners were important. They’re not just social norms, they’re a way of conveying respect for one another. Sadly, I often see far better behaved dogs than I do owners these days.

The other week we were walking the dogs on the large football pitch near the house. It’s a vast space with multiple exits so for reactive dogs like ours it’s great. You get plenty of warning of other dogs and can make a quick calm exit if needed.

We’d just arrived at the field this particular time when I noticed Annie had dropped her collar torch. It was getting dusk so OH back tracked to look for it. This left me in the field with both dogs on waist leads, which we prefer as it gives you two hands to sort out clickers, treats or poo bags. It started when Annie, much worse than she is now almost dislocated OH’s shoulder and now it’s sort of stuck.

Just as he went out of sight a woman came the field with two dogs and was soon joined by another lady with three dogs. Annie and Bear, until then doing okay with their sit stay and watch me got a little agitated so we moved to a safer distance.

They were walking directly towards us, all five dogs now her off lead. I moved down the field, zig-zagging to a spot I was sure was safe as it was off their trajectory. They changed direction and headed once again, straight towards us.

Lunge
By this point Little Bear and Annie had had enough. They lunged, they barked and clipped around my waist, were doing a great job of cutting me in half. The women looked up to see what the commotion was, shot me a ‘god, your dogs are awful look’ AND KEPT COMING!

Now any normal person seeing that would recognise a fear reaction in a dog. Even if they’d never experienced it, who in their right mind would walk their own dogs towards dogs who are lunging and barking?!

I was incredulous. How could these women not realise that their presence and that of their mob of dogs was seriously upsetting mine? They had an entire football pitch to walk on but seemed intent on hounding me out of it. Thankfully, their dogs had more sense than they did and gave us a wide berth, but the damage was done. By the time OH returned a few minutes later they were extremely agitated and despite trying to lighten the mood with some chase once we were free of our stalkers, Little Bear walked home with his tail down.

I thought of this yesterday. We were out in the woods and spotted a couple with four dogs coming towards us on a narrow path. We called our dogs, they called theirs. We had them sit and wait. So did they to the point that for about a minute nobody moved.

When the stalemate became apparent we walked ours on past them, only to find their dogs sitting patiently just off the track. We exchanged a round of thank yous and all went on our way. To my deep joy our two looked but continued on their way without a murmur. I couldn’t have been prouder or more grateful that there do seem to be some owners out there with manners as good as their dogs.

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