Fear of other dogs! . . . dog training norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Fear of other dogs . . . dog training norwich

Lots of dogs have a fear of other dogs, it’s a very common problem! Some dogs dislike big dogs, some will target small dogs. I met one dog who specifically didn’t like black Labradors . . . and some dogs just don’t like any other dogs!

Fear of other dogs - dog training norwich

When Monty first arrived, the other dogs were a little uncertain of him! Careful management allowed them all to get used to each other, without anyone feeling vulnerable, and in time they accepted him as one of the pack!

When a dog resorts to the use of aggression towards other dogs, it means that he genuinely believes that this dog could be a threat to himself and his pack! It also usually means that he doesn’t feel he has an alternative option. Dogs do not use aggression lightly, they know that if you start a fight you can be injured and even killed!

Living in a man-made world, which in itself can be quite a challenge, we expect our dogs to politely interact with the multitude of dogs – and people – that come their way. Many dogs manage these interactions admirably but for some the stress becomes too much and they end up resorting to the use of aggressive behaviour, because they truly believe that they have no other choice.

For most creatures – including us – there are three options when faced with a threat: flight, freeze or fight. The moment we attach a lead to our dogs we seriously reduce his options. Now unable to flee and with freeze often not an option – as the owner continues to walk towards the perceived danger (another dog) – a dog with fear of other dogs, can feel there’s only one thing left to do – fight!

Often pre-emptive, the dogs reaction can be exacerbated by a number of factors; including how his owner reacts. Often an owners reaction will only serve to panic the dog more as, worried by what their own dog is going to do, they tighten up the lead, their pulse rate begins to soar and they try to reassure their dog verbally. The dog interprets this as his owner also being fearful of the approaching dog and is all the more determined to see off the threat and protect his pack!

I was asked out to visit Laura and Samson her very handsome Bulldog x Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As always the process of resolving this issue begins in the home. By calmly and consistently showing Samson that she made the decisions and kept the pack safe – in the house and garden first – Laura was able to gradually head back out into the wider and more challenging world. By calmly and confidently choosing the flight option, whenever she did encounter another dog, Laura presented herself as a competent Pack Leader and over time Samson began to trust that it wasn’t his responsibility to deal with other dogs.

Aggression towards other dogs! . . dog training norfolk

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

DSC_0260Aggression towards other dogs is the most common problem that I am asked out to help people resolve.

In the wolf pack ritualised displays of dominance and submission are implemented by the pack to enable safe cohabitation. Essentially the alpha wolves display dominance and the subordinate wolves display submission and everyone feels safe to carry on living together, without the fear of injury or death, inflicted by a fellow pack mate.

When a domestic dog meets another dog, particularly whilst out on the hunt/patrol (walk), he will need to make a decision about how to handle what could be a potentially dangerous situation. Many dogs manage these interactions incredibly well, and with the use of non-aggressive body language, eye contact and posture and also play, they are able to convey – “I am no threat to you, please do not harm me”.

But not all dogs are able to manage things quite so effectively and just like us, some dogs are more adept at socialising than others. Past experience will obviously influence a dog’s reaction to other dogs. A dog who has previously had an aggressive interaction with another dog or dogs, is likely to start ‘generalising’ about other dogs, see them as a threat and react negatively. A dog who has a tendency to resort to aggression towards other dogs, is more likely to illicit an unfavourable response from other dogs, as fear is infectious and everyone – including owners – become anxious in the presence of an anxious dog.  But possibly the biggest contributing factor in this equation is, as always, who does the dog see as Pack Leader?

It is the role of the Pack Leader to make the decisions and keep the pack safe. Choosing from, flight, freeze or fight, the Leader will decide which option to take when faced with a perceived danger. In their natural environment a canine prefers to flee – move away from a threat – avoiding a fight, the risk of injury and possible death!

For the domestic dog this is very often not an option.

The moment that we attach a lead to our dog we have seriously reduced his options, should he be faced with a perceived danger of any kind! Now, unable to flee and very often without the option of freezing – as the threat continues to come towards him and/or his owner continues to walk towards the threat – a worried dog can feel he is left with only one option – fight!

Based on the information that he has received from his owner (see previous instalments or check out ‘The Dog Listener’ by Jan Fennell) the dog will already have come to a conclusion about who makes the decisions and keeps the pack safe. If the dog believes that this is his role, he will do everything in his power to keep himself and his pack safe and for many dogs a pre-emptive strike – ‘get in there first’ – can feel like the only option!!

More next blog . . .

Dog pulling on the lead? . . . dog training in norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you? Is your dog pulling on the lead?

Dog Training in Norfolk - Encouraging a dog to walk to heel is essential for a safe and enjoyable walk.

Daisy is an anxious dog by nature. As a result, when she leaves the safety of the house and garden, she wants to find out as much information about her environment, as possible. This involves sticking that spaniel-nose to the ground and covering as much ground, as possible. Sometimes we allow her to do this. Other times I need her to walk calmly with me. We practice heel work regularly . . .

The problems that people can experience when they take their dogs out for a walk, are very often the result of the dog’s attempt to take control of what he sees as the hunt or patrolling the territory. Dogs are unequipped to do this in a world they don’t understand – the human world.

Working on instinct alone and unsupported by their human pack members (who don’t usually see their dog as leader and therefore thwart his attempts to carry out his perceived role) it’s not uncommon for dogs to become increasingly more stressed and overwhelmed and for this to be reflected in their behaviour.

Over-the-top behaviour when preparing to go out, pulling on the lead, poor recall, jumping up at and aggression towards other dogs and people, general lack of cooperation, hunting, the list goes on, and all these things are an indication that the dog believes that he is the one making the decisions when the pack heads out into the wider world. Well-meaning owners believing they MUST take their dog out or else they’re bad dog owners, continue to go out, everyone becomes more stressed and the problems get bigger!

So where did the idea that you must walk your dog – twice a day and for a length of time appropriate to the size and breed of the dog – come from? Have we always believed that we must take a dog for a walk or is it a relatively recent idea? What did our grandparents and great grandparents do? What happens if you don’t take a dog for a walk? (sharp intake of breath!)

I have always enjoyed walking my dogs, it’s actually one of my favourite things to do and I am certainly not advocating never going out with your dogs. I am also not saying that dogs don’t need exercise, of course they do, but they rarely need as much as people think they do (as long as you don’t over-feed them) and if you have a garden, why not go out and play with your dog? This is really good exercise, socially bonding and done correctly can help reinforce your leadership in preparation for heading back out!

So if taking your dog out for a walk is an ordeal, if it’s a battle of wills and a battle of strength, and you both arrive back home feeling stressed and exhausted, you might want to consider not going out there – just yet!

Next post, how to gain your dogs cooperation in this challenging area!