Snoozing in the City – Arthur’s Adventures


Those of you that know me well, know that as well as Arthur I have 3 other dogs. Of these 3, 2 are reactive to other dogs, and one also reactive to people. One of the bigger priorities I have with Arthur is simple, in theory, allow him to become a confident puppy who can handle whatever life throws at him! Essentially, socialise, socialise, socialise!

 


So what is socialisation? The term has become muddied with people seeming to take extremes in approaches. Either frustrating the dog and taking every experience incredibly slowly or pushing a dog into every situation regardless of how they feel. For me socialisation is simple, Arthur should remain confident about whatever the situation was following it. If it challenges him slightly, this is less of a concern while he is a young puppy. Puppies tend to bounce back from situations and if we handle it appropriately we can turn small signs of uncertainty into ones of confidence and joy.

Arthur relaxing around Lincoln Cathedral


So from the very get go Arthur went out in so many different places. Not driving and not wanting to over walk him I either carried him or popped him in a specialised puppy backpack and then popped him on the floor the places where I wanted him to potter. Arthur was quite a bit barky from the moment he had his first walk, this was a worry but not something worth making a massive deal about for me. He was barking from joy and excitement. Not ideal but with every person and dog he saw he got less interested. Walks were about socialising, seeing sights, hearing new sounds and watching the world go by. Less about walking time more about quality time.


Loose lead walking and focus wasn’t of huge importance to me, he was only a baby- it is crazy to expect him to have the self-control of an adult dog. Arthur, being the strange little creature he is, was much more fond of the hustle and bustle of the city than walking down boring roads. His tail wagged furiously when taken to Castle Square in Lincoln. A busy day there was so much to take in, the only thing that caused a slight degree of anxiety was a horse and carriage, but a laugh from me and dropping down with him and he was fine (and has been since!) He settled by my feet often and just because content with everything to see. On more than one occasion he would happily sleep in the middle of the busy City! Always happy to greet new people and dogs, never once attempting to jump up people I ensured I reinforced this behaviour by treating him and this is something that was never an issue.

We didn’t just visit the City though, it was important to go different places every day. So he got used to new roads, dogs, people, sounds and environments. Places that were empty, supermarket car parks, Pets at Home, fun dog shows, large open fields, small playing fields everywhere you can think of! He took a while to adjust to traffic, so we went on walks specifically to address this, finding a busy road with a large path and empty car park and field nearby we went there regularly to play with toys, sometimes even just to chew on a chew or kong. Now traffic is not a concern of his. I didn’t stand and make him look at traffic or reward him for staring at it. Instead, traffic was the background noise to fun things, games with toys and excitement. It wasn’t something to be forced to be near, the sound just became background noise to him.

Arthur enjoying himself at Greetwell Quarry Lincoln

Sleeping around such busy settings and also regularly checking in with me was exactly what I was looking for, and he achieved it so easily. He loved every moment of this and the only quirk he had on walks was a refusal to walk in certain places. Something he no longer does at 7 months (I will write on this in a later blog!) He is now beginning his teenage phase, things are a touch different now, he is more excited about people but he rarely barks at dogs now. He will focus more and perform behaviours on walks as well as enjoying walks with one of his best friends Django! Socialisation is certainly not over yet though- not even slightly!

 

A New Chapter – Arthur’s Adventures



Arthur is my 7 month old Whippet puppy. He has been living with us for 4 months now and he is maturing into a nice little puppy. It’s not been easy for him, he came into a home with one dog with a then undiagnosed pain issue, an older jrt who rules the roost and another older whippet who tolerates puppies at best!
Puppies are like sponges. They love learning and catch on fast, there has been a video going round  Facebook of a very young puppy shaped to do various exercises. I was so excited to crack on with Arthur’s training. Arthur however, well he had other ideas…no that’s not true. Ideas require a lot of brain power…Arthur didn’t have a clue!

 

He is SUCH a poser!


Arthur was so unlike the rest of the gang here, they were all so eager to learn and get involved with us as owners. Arthur had no time for people, why would he? At 12 weeks old ,when i picked him up from the breeder, it was very apparent he had minimal attention placed on him and minimal work put in. He was happy and healthy, but he occupied himself with his litter mates, who were all hand shy. Arthur’s stronger level of resilience to handling is what caused me to pick him. I should have forseen that to fit in here he would have some form of quirkiness!

 

Arthur just LOVES Ollie



Arthur looked blankly at all the treats i used. Whether it was a fancy dog treat, cheap dog treat, piece of meat, peanut butter, anything you can think of.. it just wouldn’t float Arthur’s boat. Luring him with anything resulted in another blank expression as he casually wandered off. Patience, I kept telling myself. A few days in and he will get it. Which I found myself repeating at each interval, 1 week in and he will come good…2 weeks repeating the same mantra… On and on until, at around 6 weeks of being here something switched on AHA food is good! He began to learn the basics, and we got to crack on a bit more with recall (that’s another blog for another day!) He loves obedience, less so shaping or tricks. Now he can’t get enough of our training sessions. It has taken some patience, but he is shaping up to be a cracking little dog! Keep your eyes peeled on our future posts, discussing socialisation, recall and how he is getting on with other members of the gang, Marley, Ollie & Womble.

 

Arthur at our Puppy Play sessions

 

Secrets to Perfection

Everyone is striving for it. Perfection.
The Perfect life is what everyone aims for , and with that the perfect dog.
Who is the perfect dog? We all have a different idea. For some its the dog who relaxes all day, gets up to eat and goes back to sleep. For most its the dog who obeys every command instantaneously. The dog who can socialise with EVERY person & EVERY dog. They walk beautifully on a loose lead, come back when called almost telepathically. They just want to be with you but don’t have anxiety issues at your lack of presence.
Owners are sold this ideal. If they socialise their dog well & train hard that is what their dog will be. I’m going to let you into a little secret here….Perfection doesn’t exist- Nor does the perfect dog.


We are doing our dogs a great disservice by expecting perfection from them. Very few of us can say we are perfect (one could argue those who do are suffering from delusions of grandeur perhaps!) So why do we expect perfection from them? Why must we accept nothing less than perfection or write a dog off as having “issues”. Why must our dogs have to be pounced upon by every ill mannered dog in the neighbourhood and take no issue with it. Why do we say they have issues with it when it’s perfectly normal to tell the stranger down the street to get away if they were to suddenly run over and hug you and challenge you to a game of Mariokart Double Dash on the gamecube (i’m living in the past…) It’s the same when another dog pounces on your dog having never met them demanding play. But we write off that dog as having “issues”. Owners of reactive dogs spend their lives waiting, for that moment *poof* (that’s magic fairy dust right there) your dog is no longer full of issues! The problem is they spend so much time hoping, frustrated…that before they know it they haven’t enjoyed being with their dogs. Appreciating them for who they are. If someone tries to tell you their dog is perfect- I promise you- They’re Lying. Their dog will have some quirk, some issue that makes their owner tell them “no” or “pack it in”


So am i saying give up on your dog with issues? Just don’t bother and leave them to it. No. Of course not. What I am saying is comparing them to what you deem perfection isn’t fair. Every moment you wishing for that is a moment wasted. Spoiler Alert- Your dog will not be perfect. Sorry if you were still under that illusion! Your reactive dog will NEVER be that Labrador bouncing all over all the dogs in the park and laughing it off. Sorry. Trust me. I get it. I *REALLY* get it. But every moment you spend going ” well yes he’s improved BUT ” and string off a list of things your dog isn’t ok with you’re doing yourself a disservice and you’re doing your dog one too. If you want to push for perfection then you are setting each of you up to fail. Its likely if you are reading this you have already done a lot for your dog, you have begun to work WITH them rather than against them. Help them overcome their issues. How amazing is that?

Rather than wanting and desiring perfection, pushing and rushing them into progress; why not enjoy the time you are spending with your dog? Those moments where it all goes right, those moments where it all goes wrong! You will look back one day with fond memories, isn’t that better than spending your time disappointed because he is not the perfect dog? Keep working hard, remember where you have come from, keep in mind where you are going. But never expect perfection. It simply doesn’t exist. Instead appreciate and enjoy the dog stood in front of you and how much you have already achieved.

Marley on Muzzles

Hello! I am Marley!
I am 6 years old and you might notice that i wear a muzzle on my walks. I thought i would post to tell you all why and how you can help dogs like me in future!
My favourite things are my ball and running around offlead, my least favourite things are new people and big dogs- they really scare me. When i was a puppy my breeder didn’t socialise me until i went to my new home at 9 months- i had never seen a busy road, other dogs, i hadn’t lived in a home before. Everything scared me, it took me a long time to realise there wasn’t a big monster at the end of the road that would eat me!

I started to like going out but people kept putting their hands all over me or squealing and making funny noises when they saw me. I was very scared and hid behind my persons legs , i thought i was being very clear that i was scared and to leave me alone. I did this for a long time but people wouldn’t listen, neither would the dogs i met who jumped all over me. No one would listen even when my person said i’m nervous and to give me space. One day i had enough and i barked at someone…it made them go away! I tried the same for a dog- that worked too! I started to do this alot and it kept everyone away- so i kept doing it. I started doing it when people came to our house, it was my place, what were they doing there? I just wanted some space for Marley.

A nice lady came to my home to help me, she was very nice but she gave some misguided advice. She said to let me bark and lunge at people offlead in the home and treat me when i stopped. I didn’t get it. I just wanted my own space and not to worry. Eventually i liked the lady but only because my person gave her my ball to throw- i love my ball! Lots of people kept coming round, i kept telling them all to go away but they just ignored me and wouldn’t listen. So one day i ended up having to be more clear and using my teeth, no one would listen to my warnings, i really tried. When people went to leave i told them to never come back ever again.

I can look very scary on my walks when i bark at people or dogs, i have never hurt anyone on a walk but my person understands it needs to stay that way. She cant tell people to keep away anymore than i can sometimes, some people think my barking is funny and want to talk to me even more! Or that i just need to get over it and be around their dog jumping on me. I am a good boy when i am given a few minutes to calm myself and to see nothing bad will happen. I just panic and get scared. I have lots of people friends and other dog friends who i love zooming with! Sometimes when i am offlead though i run away very fast, my tail is tucked because i’m scared. My person tells people that and to call their dog and they say whippets like running- not when i’m scared! I wear my muzzle so i can run offlead, and if people or dogs come over and i’m startled everyone can be safe. It means i can meet new dogs- i like little terriers who play, they’re the best!

I am not bothered by my muzzle, it means i still get to go out and be a whippet. It doesn’t mean i’m nasty. But it doesn’t mean you should try and stroke me still. I’m still scared, so if my person says not to, please don’t stroke me. If my person says i’m running away scared, please put your dog onlead to give us a chance to get away- we aren’t trying to upset your day. My person tries hard to walk me at quiet times. If i am walking away from you with my person, its because she knows i will be scared of your dog or you. Please do not follow us or throw your ball right by us for your dog to catch- it wont entice me to play, it will scare me! I am alot better and more brave now! I get better everyday. I also have epilepsy, this means some days i will be extra scared as i’m not very well and wobbly on my legs. So some days i will play with you and some days my person will say i cant play today. Its not personal. I just need extra space.

There are alot of dogs like me. If you see a dog being given treats at a big distance to you and your dog, it might be because they are in training like me. Their person probably spends alot of time to make them happier, if you are not sure if you or your dog can say hello, put your dog onlead and ask if you can say hello. Some dogs might be ok like me if you walk onlead together for a bit, that person will know their dog best and be able to tell you what to do for best if you can help and want to. Sometimes the person might just walk away chanting “lets go” it isnt the person being rude, they just think their dog might get upset and they are trying to help their dogs be happy.

Sometimes dogs like me wear yellow, it might be a yellow ribbon, a yellow lead, a yellow harness, maybe even a yellow jacket. It might be a muzzle ( you can even get yellow muzzles!). This tells you we need some extra space please! Sometimes we don’t make alot of noise , some of us just look worried. Some of us bark and cry. I am not always consistent in this! I do know I am Marley and i wear a muzzle because you wouldn’t go in a car without a seatbelt and my person takes the safety measures that i need so i can enjoy my life!

Attention Seeking Hounds

LOOK AT ME- How to deal with Attention Seeking Dogs

We all have an idea about our perfect dog. The dog who gets their walk, a fuss and settles quietly in the corner (or on your lap!) But what do you do when your dog is running around barking, chewing, nipping, whining and doing ANYTHING to get your attention? Far from the dog owning experience you were expecting I am sure!

So why does a dog behave like this? Alot of people will quickly respond that their dog is attention seeking. In some cases this can be true, and is a reflection of a dog who has not learned to be independent and may be demonstrating signs of anxiety. However alot of the time you have a dog exhibiting these behaviours because they are simply bored and have not been taught an acceptable way to channel their energy and busy mind. This is often very true of the teenage dog with hormones rushing around! So what do we do about these dogs? Do we cater to their every whim , giving them attention whenever they want it? Or do we ignore them for the majority of the day, teaching them being high energy gets them NOTHING…

The answer lies somewhere inbetween. There is no use ignoring a dog who knows no alternative behaviours, you are just ignoring a dog because you have not taught him what you want him to do. A dog doesn’t come pre programmed to know what we want, depending upon breed and individual differences our dogs have different instincts and relationships with people. Its important to ensure that your dogs needs are met before deciding simply to ignore the behaviour. Ignoring *can* be effective if you ignore that behaviour forever pretty much, eventually your dog may stop…but be sure not to react when your dog pops up with it again during an extinction burst! Ignoring a dog scratching at doors, crying, whining, barking…not ideal living for us, never mind the dog getting themselves into a state! Chances are we cannot forever ignore dogs who “attention seek”, so we need alternatives but giving them attention each time they ask for it can create dogs who struggle to relax.

We need to make sure we have met our dogs needs before we begin looking at attention seeking. How much walking does your dog get? Is it a good walk with onlead and offlead time? (where appropriate) Is your dog exhibiting these behaviours at a certain time everyday?
Its important to re examine what is working and what needs help when a dog begins to display these behaviours, often a lot of the time the dog NEEDS something else to do within the home, which is why they are displaying these behaviours we would deem attention seeking. They are bored. Often the best course of action is rewarding calm behaviour AND giving alternatives to any disruptive behaviours. When my Whippet was having issues with similar behaviours i was told to ignore him…well we got a scratched up door and he learned i would ignore him, so he ramped up behaviours he wouldn’t usually bother with. Excessive digging up of furniture, stealing items,  barking at us. The initial issue was him wanting to go outside every 5 minutes but not needing to pee, but we ended up with lots of problem behaviours unrelated! If your dog is “attention seeking” it is likely that they are a high energy, highly intelligent dog who is bored. Give them something else to do and ensure their day to day needs are met.

So what are Wagging Wonders top tips for preventing disruptive behaviours?

1. If you feed your dog in a bowl, change that. There are many slow feeders and puzzle toys on the market to feed your dog their food in. This will help to tire your dog mentally. If a dog isn’t mentally and physically tired then they will exhibit other behaviours to keep themselves busy. Look at what you are feeding your dog, often dogs exhibiting the types of behaviour we are referring to are on food that is packing them full of sugars! Check out http://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ to see how your dog food rates. What goes into your dog has a big influence on their behaviour.
2. Look at their walks. Do they need longer walks? More enriched walks? Or even shorter walks in case of the frantic onlead and offlead? In all of the above be sure to give your dogs varied walks, letting them sniff and meet new dogs (where reactivity is not an issue)
3. Teach your dogs to relax. Some dogs just don’t naturally have an off switch. Reinforcing calm behaviours is needed to ensure these dogs learn to have that off switch they may not naturally possess. Ensure you teach your dog to be able to relax away from you as well as in your presence, time apart is good for building confidence and independence. If your dog has a safe space give them something tasty there to have a good chew on. Kikopup has a great video on this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wesm2OpE_2c
4. Provide your dog with plenty of environmental enrichment. Kongs. Snuffle Mats. Nina Ottosson puzzle toys. Kongs and similar are a great way to teach your dogs how to relax and focus on a task rather than look for other more disruptive alternatives. You can freeze Kongs and they now come in a wider range of variety than just the red or black ones. You can now get Kong Quest toys in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit different dogs. As well as this natural chews such as stagbars and fish skins.
5. Play with your dog! Play builds a stronger bond with your dog and ensures that they are using mental and physical energy in one go. Flirt poles are a great way to train and play for dogs finished growing. Be sure to rotate toys and enjoy time with them. The more your dog enjoys your presence the more confident they feel with you.
6. Build a stronger bond with short training sessions. Simple obedience, lead walking, tricks, there are many things you can do to build that bond. Its not about creating a robotic dog who will listen to your every command, but building a relationship where your dog is happy to be around you and listen. This will help tire them mentally.
7. Try to stick to a routine, a dog who knows what is going to happen in their day will be more likely to be relaxed and calm.

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Learned Helplessness and the Ignored Dog


“Oh yes my dog is perfect now, he just sleeps all day and doesn’t bother me anymore. My trainer told me to ignore him and it really worked!”
Said no dog owner ever. I have seen a bizarre and alarming trend in trainers advising owners to ignore their dogs for issues involving anything from hyperactivity, chewing, biting and even reactivity! What is this about? A dog who has never been taught to settle down will never miraculously learn how to settle by being ignored, he has never been taught this life skill, so instead he ramps his behaviour up out of sheer frustration. But a controlled ignoring regime is being advised to poor unsuspecting owners.

Having worked with a trainer in the past who was a tad obsessed with this technique i can assure you, not one dog we work with ever calmed down from being ignored, and neither did her own. Yet her own stubbornness caused her to continue recommending it, despite no long term successes with it at all. Instead dogs became more frantic and developed issues which were not present before. When owners raised concerns they would be asked leading questions. Some were downright ridiculous, “did you blink when he barked/bit/chewed?” “ yes? oh well thats it. You have to completely tune them out.”

Are you kidding me? I have to ignore my dog to the point that i may as well not have a dog? Having naively tried this under the impression the trainer had more experience and knowledge than they actually had, i can tell you IT DOESN’T work.
A) You have to have a heart of sheer stone to ignore a dog for the time periods these trainers often suggest, some even suggesting 5-7 days (Seriously, i got a dog to spend time with him!)
B) The trainers often suggest then fussing the dog when only calm…so your dog goes absolutely NUTS when he finally gets that attention. At which point you have to reignore them. There is such a massive amount of confusion here! The poor dog is trying to work out when he is getting fuss, why it has stopped (remember good behaviours haven’t been taught or reinforced) and that he was just about to sleep. So he better stay alert in case it happens again..so your dog doesn’t relax at all!

Why should i not ignore behaviour , his behaviour was unnacceptable?

I have seen some peculiar claims by people that advise this, suggesting that mother bitch ignores a puppy who is bothering her or behaving inappropriately, even suggesting dogs do this to each other? Well i have seen no research to suggest as such, nor have i seen dogs who act this way. The reason we keep dogs with their mother until 8 weeks is so they learn appropriate manners, as a mother will reprimand her unruly children with clear warnings.
So we can see dogs don’t do this, i for one have never seen dogs standing ignoring each other rather than fighting when they have deemed behaviour unacceptable! Dogs communicate in a variety of subtle ways, in fact a still ignoring dog staring and fixing is the one to fear. As he readies himself to attack! Instead they may use a calming signal, an appeasement signal or a cut off behaviour. If a dog does not heed the calming signal or appeasement signal he may escalate. We are not dogs for a start. So we do not need to communicate aggressively with dogs. In fact dogs are so in tune with us they can recognise emotions and read us incredibly well. We need to be clear, and to give dogs- particularly puppies the right information.
Say OW if your dog bites you, for some dogs you may find this ramps them up (particularly terrier types!) however its down to individual dogs, then give them something to keep them from racing straight over and doing it again such as stuffed Kong. Because what the Trainer who advises ignoring cannot understand is that behaviour is self reinforcing …

That was Fun lets do it again!

The dog who chews your furniture is doing so because he doesn’t know what else to do. If we leave him to chew to learn that we do not accept that as behaviour, they simply learn chewing that furniture feels great! So next time they are bored? They are going to chew that furniture. This applies to any behaviour that a dog performs that we cannot allow in our homes. Management and alternative reinforcement is necessary. Your dog is never going to suddenly learn everything he needs to by being ignored. The more a behaviour is practised the more likely they are to do it again..and again..and again. Its the same reason we don’t just allow our dogs to stand and bark at other dogs or people, because they are just becoming more skilled with every reaction.

Enjoy your dogs! Their time with us very short in the grand scheme of things. If you are using this technique and keep being told “ it will get better you just have to be consistent” or told “ ohh well that time you looked at them means you have to start all over again.” Then please consider changing methods, you won’t get this time back. It doesn’t work, the magical time when your dog “gets it” never appears. And you are at very serious risk of damaging your dog and your relationship. If this technique did work the most you would be doing is causing them to suffer from learned helplessness by depriving them of social interaction. While we campaign for Orcas to be released from captivity to allow them to communicate with their own species, we have to draw comparisons to ignoring these highly social creatures within our own homes, who are able to communicate with us in a clear manner.

 

Marleys progress 2015

         Walking down the road we see a man with his lurcher. A lovely fawn and white not dissimilar to Marley. The man is an older gentleman with a hat on,  walking stick in one hand, impeccably behaved lurcher in the other. We stop and have a chat before continuing our walk.
That is a normal walk for most owners. But its something i could not have done with Marley at the beginning of 2015. Not only was he highly reactive to dogs, barking wildly at them in the distance, but he was also still incredibly people reactive. No one could speak to me on walks without him leaping into action to get them away from him. Marley had always had a degree of nerves before becoming reactive. I had resigned him to being walked only when roads were quiet, clear of people, dogs and children. I had been encouraged to not walk him by a colleague, to ensure he never got stressed and to not cue him. As our work together continued euthanasia was discussed, it wasn’t an option, i always knew he had potential underneath, it was just a case of finding what clicks for him. We parted company after continued disagreements on training methods. This was in February.
It was a bit tricky to begin with, we had to start from scratch. I began reintroducing cues and stresses at low levels, as well as ensuring he understood rules and he wouldn’t get treats simply for existing, and he didn’t get them for stopping barking! Instead we began distracting him from barking, it had become a deeply embedded behaviour that he really didn’t know why he was doing anymore in some cases. Marley is one of few dogs that i work with who reacts to not just dogs, but people, children and all sorts. So a figure of 8 headcollar is used for control.
We met up with many old friends over the next few months, whippets, poodles, terriers and lurchers. He seemed to be improving nicely so we took him to his first dog show…I genuinely expected to be sat in the carpark for the afternoon. I was more than pleasantly surprised as he trotted around the show, in fact pulled me into it! Well the rest is history. We found a new show or event to complete most weeks over summer and into autumn and i was more surprised with each passing show. I am not going to present the idea he is now a social butterfly- far from it! He enjoys his own space, and i can’t blame him! If his space is respected he won’t react, with each passing dog that respected his space his confidence continued to flow (with plenty of treats of course!) His issues with people decreased dramatically, people treated him and with permission stroked him
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We even won some prizes! My highly reactive dog even got a place for being offlead in a ring of other dogs, walking to heel and sitting on cue with good speed. As well as this winning a recall contest (ok we couldn’t lose, hes built for speed!) At times he was unsure, it will always be his default response to anything new with his lack of early socialisation, but he recovers well, and show him a whippet bitch and hes a new dog! 11995737_10153531461362660_556346406296259317_n11760137_10153531461252660_2635805172888748584_n
As his behaviour outdoors began to come together his behaviour indoors changed dramatically too. Ollie and him fought often in previous years. Fought often and Marley can hold a grudge and a half. So their relationship broke down as they just lived in the house together but rarely interacted. It was sad to see. I got Ollie to increase Marleys happiness and confidence but it seemed to have gone the other way. However this year has been different, i can walk them together most walks now and let them off to play, and they actually play! Not every walk, but often enough, they seem to enjoy each others company and even play in the home sometimes. They spend most time curled up together again, a sight that had been long gone for quite some time
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We even managed to integrate another dog into the household (who sadly ended up not being a fit with this household, not fault of Marley which is a surprise!) It was a dog who encompassed everything Marley isn’t fond of in a small package. He was young, teen shepherd type. Pointy eared, fluffy and desperate for Marleys friendship- that kind of thing drives Marley crazy!
However Marley proved that he can continue to improve and learn as, over a week or so, he allowed Elf to cuddle him on the sofa, and play with him indoors
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As the year comes to a close we can’t help but appreciate the many hours put in by friends to Marleys cause. We certainly couldn’t have done it alone. We enjoy our walks together now, rather than dread each one and the inevitable “episode” that would occur at least once. Instead we walk and take in the world, Marley is beginning to trust that the world isn’t after him! And we are always very thrilled when someone tells me “ what a well behaved dog you have there!” It always takes me aback, but seems to shockingly be becoming a regular occurrence.
We aren’t entirely sure what the new year will bring! We haven’t yet made any goals, but we are sure it will be full of many more adventures. I couldn’t ever consider this is how the year would be ending, but im certainly grateful that its ending on a massive high, with a happy, confident and contented dog.
And here is a video to show it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYiEY4f6GTE 

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Really Rubbish Recall and Regression

After Marleys new blog yesterday evening i thought i best take a look at Marley as though he was a customers dog. It can be really easy to just take a casual training approach with my own dogs. Bits and pieces here and there, usually does the trick as im lucky Marley loves to learn and train. However we have had a few rubbish days since the Great Grey Gathering. He lunged at a person for the first time in a month (possibly longer)

It wasn’t a quick swipe at a hand but a full on hind legs barking and lunging. It made no sense, it was at a woman minding her own business. I should add that Marley currently wears a figure of eight. For safety we have 2 choices, figure of eight or a muzzle when onlead. He is a tricky boy and finding his exact trigger with people will always remain a mystery, i am aware him lunging is very intimidating to some people, and with recent changes to the law we feel eliminating alot of the lunging is best option to minimize upset with public. Particularly as where we live there are alot of children, usually on bikes, scooters etc which can trigger him (albeit rarely now!) and i dont want a child to get muzzle punched by him if in close enough quarters. I have a higher level of control with the figure of 8, and it gives us both more confidence.

As well as reacting to the woman he reacted to several medium sized breeds in an explosive manner. He simply has not done this for months. I had to have a chat with a few friends and realised hes getting less exercise with the rain, and less socialising. As well as this i reflected on the Great Gathering. It was a cramped occassion, far more so than any other fun dog show we have been to. At all times there were dogs within his safe space. I assumed it was the sighthound effect, he loves them! And i think that could not have happened unless they were sighthounds. However neither of us were 100% with the lack of space. All credit to him, he only reacted to a single grey who dared to sniff his bottom while he was doing a “touch”. It may have been too much for him, thankfully few fun dog shows we attend are so lacking in space. It may actually finally be just an extinction burst. When dogs are learning alot of new behaviours and responses , old behaviour patterns can come to the fore. This is very normal and as long as there is consistency the dog will come out of it as they were before.

With this in mind i took Marley out today with a ball launcher to exert extra energy, he’d never been too keen on balls or ball launchers until our guest Elf took a liking to them- Marley thinks they are great now! So he whippet off after this ball a dozen times then decided it was naff. I have noticed in the last 7 months something has changed along with Marleys confidence..his recall has gone to pot! He used to stick by me like a little lost sheep, now he bowls over fields without a care for me, as he ran towards a branch in the middle of a field today with the kind of curiosity he does when he is stuck between fight or flight with a dog i called him back…to no avail! One of my favourite things Marley can do is respond like lightning to recall…yet he completely ignored me! Recall is one of the most important things you can teach a reactive dog in my opinion. Recall could be the difference between your dog not noticing a trigger, stop approaching a trigger or recalling at that very last moment or ignoring it and going for a dog or person.

Some may suggest such dogs should never be offlead anyway, so why teach a recall? Because management fails, and so does equipment. Earlier this year we had an incident with a workman at our house, he decided he needed to be outside, which is where we keep Marley when essential work needs to be done. So i quickly popped him on lead and stood in corner of garden, this was about 6 months ago. He began barking and lunging , which was no surpise he was still heavily reactive to men at this time, and anyone on his property. One second everything was under control, the next he was at his leg barking and air snapping. The lead had snapped clean. I was holding one end and the other was still on his harness. This is what prompted me to begin muzzling marley when anyone was around for the first month. His muzzle was the only safe option. In emergencies it can be hard to think but 90% of people would react by shouting their dogs name. Foolishly i didn’t, instead trying to shout to my mum and the workman as marley sped over- i cant outrun a whippet! Had i called his name he would have stopped, he always had a good response to me. I never would have expected that to occur, and that is what your recall needs to be ready for. Those unexpected moments.

So this afternoon i began practising our favourite recall game. It involves me calling Marley, and when he gets to me dropping a few small treats and running off calling him, treating him when he gets to me following the call and dropping a few smalls treats, and running off again. He used to be a whizz at this game…well this did not occur this afternoon :O
He blew me off several times! And dawdled his way to a recall! To say i was unimpressed is an understatement. We have ALOT of work to do. He will not run off when offlead, so he will not be kept to a long line ( as he just tangles himself and being a whippet- and a pathetic one at that!- he gets bruises and cuts all over himself) however he will be expected to check in more frequently.

So we have begun more work. When offlead i am not going in a straight line, forever zig zagging and changing direction. Think i will have to pull out the clicker again and mark him moving with me (we had phased out clicker for recall and attentiveness on walks). We throw treats into distance and go opposite way, sometimes throw them in the air. As well as this i will be using the famous green squeaky ball as part of his training as a reward for coming back. As well as this we will be using a higher variety of treats and building more motivation for training and toys… but thats an entirely different post!

Fresh Starts and Clean Slates

I thought it was about time that Me and Marley began again. Talking about our journey OUR way. No filtering and having to await others approval, but posts the way that actually describe what is going on..

Who are we?
I’m Zara and I’m a dog trainer at Wagging Wonders Lincoln. I have had this business set up 3 years having worked directly with other dogs (generally dog reactive) for the last 4 years.
Marley was my inspiration, having bought him from an unscrupulous breeder he was full of issues. I had to learn very fast how to deal with them, and learning more about dogs was something i was already keen on. I spent every waking moment learning from resources abound, books, videos and other trainers online. I met another trainer and began working with them , training didnt go to plan for Marley so we will leave it there. We want to focus on the now and the future.
Starting again with marley proved a challenge, it had been suggested he was miserable and i was making him worse by trying to train him and improve his quality of life. Which was not only unkind and unfair, but simply short sighted and untrue.

Marley is an intelligent 5 year old whippet, he lives with me, Ollie, Womble and my brother and mum. Ollie is an 8 year old whippet and womble a 10 year old JRTx.
To sum Marley up in a single word? Neurotic! He is both people and dog reactive. As well as this reactive to cyclists, joggers, cats, unexpected items (new road signs). On top of this hes hyperactive, obsessive and enjoys the sound of his own voice. He also has serious issues with Ollie and used to fight alot with him.

In March when we began our journey again he was a terrible state. Although treats were used in the last few years the methods involved shutting a dog down and ignoring them. Marley didn’t believe he could trust me, which had an effect on many aspects of his behaviour. We couldn’t walk off the road without him having a “panic attack”. I will use this term alot, and what it simply means is he thrashes about trying to escape his harness and the situation. Alot of this behaviour was habit and continuous cycle of fear and a response he’d got himself stuck in. We had to start from scratch.

Marley would react to people from large distances, barking and lunging at them from across the road. Giving a more intense reaction to dogs. Both of these had improved however after being advised to not walk him anymore he was no longer habituated to basic life stimulus. Traffic sounds, people talking, all would cause extreme anxiety in Marley. Marley is highly intelligent but incredibly obsessive. Creating alot of negative Conditioned Emotional Responses over the last few years.

However anyone meeting Marley now would be unlikely to guess his issues. In fact this weekend we attend the Great Greyhound Gathering in Nottingham and most people commented on how he didn’t seem reactive, with people commenting how well behaved he has been at previous shows! Its all been a shock but we are not home and dry yet. Marley is a dog who had no socialisation and along with various issues needs continued socialisation and a heavy amount of training. So i have to put that in. It can be demanding. Having a reactive dog is heartbreaking but having a people and dog reactive dog is twice the work. It can be soul destroying. Watching others dogs without issues enjoying life, wondering what has gone wrong for yours. But when progress is made, it is a level of joy those owners may not understand. That moment when they watch a dog without reacting for the first time, sheer elation! The first time they don’t fear a stranger, Bliss!

He has conquered a major fear of his , travelling in the car. He now does it at least once a week, with his new best friend Blossom. He used to throw up if in one for just 2 minutes! This weekend he travelled from Lincoln to Nottingham.
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His relationship with Ollie? Much improved, they spend their days like this now…

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His relationship with me? Back to being close!
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Reaction to other dogs? Dwindling

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And even won some prizes along the way!
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When a dog has complex or multiple issues the world can feel isolating and it can weigh you down. Whether your dog is reacting from fear, excitement, frustration, prey drive. Its hard. It will get you down, but hopefully Marleys blog will help other owners see it can be done. We don’t intend to sugar coat things, if we make a mistake we will post about it! Everyone makes mistakes, even dog trainers! The last 7 months have been a good start, we are looking forward to an even more exciting future!

We are both very thankful to some truly amazing people along the way who helped give us the confidence to go forward. You have changed his life by pushing me and making me believe we can do it. We are very lucky to have some amazing friends.