It has almost been a year since Arthur came into our house like a little whirlwind! He came in and changed life for all of us with his various quirks. He settled in beautifully with Marley, and they have become firm friends, despite a few challenges along the way (Marley’s determination Arthur’s ears are detachable being just one!)
It’s hard to believe that in February of last year Marley was struggling badly with pain and his behaviour was spiralling to such a bad level. Marley had always been reactive to people and dogs on walks, but this had become very manageable with a lot of work and commitment, with him and Ollie able to walk and see dogs with no reaction to the majority of dogs we saw. HowevMarley’seys behaviour was becoming very worrying in the home, he had began to redirect on people and dogs at events that triggered his anxiety. Mainly if someone at the door or dogs the other side of the fence. Marley would began to grab and bite whoever was closest whether human or canine when he could hear the neighbours dogs, and began to snap and bite towards us when we went to answer the door.
Along with this he had become hesitant about walking again, and had several episodes where he became lame suddenly and his gait just seemed “off” to me. He had begun growling when any of the dogs went near him when sleeping and started to lash out more and more. Marley has always had a lot of problems, quite a few of the more serious ones in recent years related to his Epilepsy. But he was becoming harder and harder to handle, and more and more agitated. We were told to greatly reduce his exercise to look for improvement. This seemed to help, and I continued to work solidly on his behaviour. Keeping him onlead in the garden and away from the fencing. Very carefully desensitizing him to the door being knocked on and me answering it, as well as ensuring he got the most amazing treats throughout. Marley is a pessimistic dog, so training is always a challenge. He needs so many more positive or neutral experiences to counter balance old behaviour patterns than the average dog. His behaviour began to improve again and he began to relax more and more. (This is the super short version of his training!)
After many tests and vet visits he was diagnosed with Cervical Disc Disease, this was shortly after Arthur came home. Having a diagnosis was a great relief. Arthur began to bond closely with Marley and seemed to provide him much comfort when he was uncertain. I reduced Marley’s out of the home exercise for a while. It was becoming a challenge to walk him without him reacting due to pain, and on equipment that didn’t cause him further discomfort (he found harnesses most uncomfortable for some reason!) He has enjoyed much playing with Arthur, and brain games and only recently have I realised that Marley is actually much calmer and happier. I had always been incredibly worried about adding a puppy into the home with Marley, however for Marley it seems to have provided him a comfort. Marley has not had a seizure since September 2017. This is the longest period of time he hasn’t had a seizure since his epilepsy began.
Marley is enjoying life at the pace he dictates, and he’s loving that! He gets a walk if he wants, fuss when he wants, puzzles and training when he wants! He is still a much more confident dog than he ever was and I am keen to keep him that way by still taking him out whenever he wants a walk or to meet friends and their dogs he loves!
Most pups will bite in certain contexts or situations. Despite popular opinion ignoring won’t help much! If you ignore it the puppy will just create a strong reinforcement history with biting.
Don’t be tempted to scold, shout at or even physically correct your puppy for nipping, this rarely teaches them anything other than the human is scary and you should avoid them! A lot of puppies nip because they are teething, so be sure to give them items to chew on frequently.
Here are a few tips to help with your nippy puppy.
-Redirect your puppy onto a fun toy rather than you. Teach your puppy what you DO want them to bite.
-Only fuss your puppy when they’re calm if they’re sharky.
-Practice “touch” hand targetting frequently
-Teach your puppy handling is good if they’re nipping from frustration when handled
-Ensure your puppy is getting sufficient mental and physical exercise. Snuffle mats are a great way to slow down a manic puppy.
-Ensure your training sessions are short, so as not to build frustration
-Remove yourself or the puppy from the situation
-If it’s the same situation every time, be prepared and prevent! Prevention is far easier! If your puppy has mad zoomies with sharkiness at 5pm every day, at 4.50pm get your puppy a kong/chew (bully sticks, chicken feet, duck necks), snuffle mat or a puzzle toy. Or be prepared depending on the situation with lots of treats to reward what you like and a line on the puppy to remove them from the situation if they do get bitey.
-Fleece toys are great for pups and fluffy tuggy toys to nibble on.
-If nipping during play with a person, the game is over when teeth touch skin, next time lower excitement level of the game, the puppy nipping is information, he is too excited. Lower excitement and reward for nice play.
-If nipping other dogs remove them from the situation, again this is information, next time keep an eye on play getting too exciting and remove before your puppy gets too nippy.
-Be consistent. If you’re not then your puppy will chance nipping and biting.
Chatting with a customer recently we were discussing the anxiety her dog feels on walks. He is a recently rescued dog who was sadly returned a couple of times prior to his owners adopting him. He has a few quirks and is unsure of the world inside the home and outside the home. At the moment he pulls when anxious and generally unsure of things going on around him. This pulling and frenzied behaviour that he displays only causes him further stress.
His owners mentioned he can walk for hours but come home and not settle, in fact, it can seem to wind him up further. This wasn’t a surprise for me to hear, this can often occur in dogs who are chronically stressed. The pulling and lunging on lead and getting distressed by sudden noises is likely releasing adrenaline and cortisol into his system, this can take several days to flush from the system depending on the stress levels of the dog. As I continued to explain why these walks where he is over aroused might actually be counterproductive and that for some dogs walking everyday simply isn’t for them if its likely to be stressful, the dogs’ owner responded with a great wisdom. She said it’s as though we as people have a pre-written rulebook of what every dog wants and needs, but that actually that might not be true for every dog.
Every dog is an individual and all have different needs, sometimes it can be hard for us to move away from those ideas, but it’s important to remember that the “rules” we have in mind when we think about life with a dog, might not be the book of the dog in front of us. They might actually have one that states they would rather be at home and play games than go out and socialise with other dogs. They might actually prefer to go for a walk somewhere quiet once a day rather than have to deal with the hustle and bustle of the city. Or they might prefer a city walk rather than be harassed by offlead dogs constantly.
Looking at what your dog actually wants and needs rather than sticking to the way things have always been done will certainly fulfil your dog more.
Some puppies love walkies, from the very first moment they get outside they’re just having a ball. They kind of potter along nearby you taking in all the sights and sounds, likely leaping all over every passerby and wriggling away at every dog! Exactly what you expected owning a puppy to be like.
Some pups, however, don’t quite get the whole walking business. They potter along for a bit and then they put the brakes on. Looking uncertain they lay down or sit or simply attempt to break free of the harness or collar that is trying to hold them prisoner! They don’t seem to be enjoying the experience a huge amount and as we get more frustrated they do too.
I picked up Arthur 3 weeks ago now, he is one of those pups! He is a confident young dog but sometimes it just all becomes a bit much. He stops. And he doesn’t often budge. I can get a toy out, I can throw some treats around. I can get all excited, kneel on the floor…yeah you name it I have tried it! He is just a bit miffed by this walking around business, sometimes he is bored, sometimes he is tired. Sometimes he simply doesn’t want to walk. At this age, my main concern is socialisation vs walking on a loose lead. I have seen too many dogs who have never got near people or dogs and ended up with issues as their trainer obsessed over them walking perfectly and having PERFECT manners. He is a puppy, nice manners get rewarded but I want him to be seeing the world I want him to be able to enjoy as he matures.
So here are my top tips for helping a puppy not keen on walkies:
-Do try encouraging your puppy to walk with you, it might not work but if it does, reward them heavily!
-Don’t drag, pull or chastise your puppy for refusing to walk, this will likely worsen their issues with the lead.
-If it is a certain area your puppy doesn’t enjoy/refuses to walk at. Pick them up before you get near the spot and carry them past it. This should help eliminate the behaviour if its certain places and a bad habit vs fear or anxiety.
-Try stopping and standing next to where your puppy is for a moment. Gauge how your puppy is feeling. Now try walking forward slowly again when you think they are ready if your puppy joins you reward them with treats. Sometimes our pups just need a moment and respecting that and moving on will help them.
-Reward them regularly for walking with you. If you like that behaviour vs them refusing to walk then rewarding that more will result in your puppy offering walking next to you more.
-Try walking your puppy somewhere new. Arthur actually prefers busy areas, so we are currently doing lots of trips to more interesting places. You don’t have to walk your puppy there, you can carry or drive them somewhere they prefer. The goal is that your puppy begins to enjoy walking. The time you invest now pays off big time later on.
-Play with your puppy on walks. I jog back and forth with Arthur and he realises keeping with me onlead is great fun!
-Practice leadwork in the home or garden aside from walks, so your puppy learns that being onlead is fun.
-Find a buddy for your puppy to walk with. This can help break the bad habit of stalling as your puppy doesn’t get to rehearse that behaviour when with their friends, they are more likely to continue walking (ensure your puppy is not walking with a reactive dog who they will pick up bad habits from!)
As soon as Arthur was brought home I was determined he would be crate trained. There are so many benefits to this including the potential for him to come to training sessions with me when he matured. I had various kongs and chews at the ready. A massive spanner was put in the works though, as I have previously mentioned, Arthur would not eat from Kong’s, he would not eat chews, and he really didn’t entertain food for the first few weeks. So how did crate training go?
It didn’t. Arthur had a crate at his breeder’s so I assumed he would have been ok, I attempted training in the daytime. This just didn’t happen, food wasn’t very interesting. I tried placing his meals in there, he ate and left promptly. I tried popping him in his crate with the door open when he was in a deep puppy sleep, he scooted straight out. He slept with his crate directly next to my bed at night with minimal interruptions but with random whimperings throughout the night once his bladder could manage it he joined me on the bed. I assume because he was used to spending every moment he could with his littermates and minimal input from the humans in his household at the breeders it was all a lot to take in, he was 12 weeks old which was a month older than the age i had wanted to bring a puppy home at.
Arthur bonded fast with everyone, in his own fashion. To the point not being in the room with us caused hysterics. I do not believe in ignoring a distressed dog. There is science to suggest this does much harm and knocks a puppies self-confidence, particularly at a young age. This meant he spent most of his time with us, and I had to watch his every waking move to interrupt him dive bombing on my oldest whippet, or chewing up the skirting boards. Toys were not very interesting either. Plastic Bottles were at least of some interest, so many of those were given to him for entertainment.
A month or so into Arthur joining us, Marley (one of my older whippets) had to go on 6 weeks of complete rest- including no play with Arthur. Including no Arthur attaching himself to his neck. So we had to put up a gate to separate them unless sleeping. Arthur did not appreciate this, neither did Marley. Arthur’s anxiety about being separated increased. There was much frustration, crying and an Arthur thinking he could chew up a metal gate (he probably could!) This was managed by increasing Arthur’s exercise and mental stimulation (sit for the plastic bottle went down well, odd little dog!)
The last 6 months have been a busy blur! But at some point, Arthur began to enjoy food and chews! I had begun leaving him with a dental stick which occupied him while I left. This helped stop him crying when I left. However, going upstairs was against the rules (Arthur’s rules!), walking the others were against the rules too. He didn’t spend time harassing me for attention, he got plenty of that so would happily settle when I was around, but he lacked any independence.
So Arthur is now almost 9 months old. Arthur will go in his crate when presented with the opportunity, but will not remain in it for long without food! Arthur cannot be left if I go in the back garden with one of the others for training. So where do we go from here? Well ignoring the issue isn’t an option, we have managed it until this point but unless we address it, it will always be managed not dealt with.
You can see above some vague, wittering notes. These are to keep me motivated, I am very busy lately day to day. If a plan is not made, something does not get done. Having a plan prior to the session means we can see what works and what does not. Currently, we are building independence. This is NOT achieved by ignoring Arthur, this is NOT achieved by reducing exercise. This is achieved by allowing Arthur to feel that GOOD things happen when he is separate. Planning ahead I have several kongs in the fridge, a moderate level of difficulty. To keep him occupied and to challenge him enough to take his mind from me. Too easy? He does it and whines, too difficult? He quickly gives up. It must be full of high value treats, or he loses interest.
I put the toy down, on his mat that he enjoys settling on anyway, set the timer. And I leave the room, closing the gate behind me. I do nothing exciting, usually typing something up. I am out of sight, but the door is not closed, that is too much of a challenge currently. I have tended to work on this in an evening, when he is naturally more tired and likely to settle, setting him up to succeed. We are moving to morning times too. I will continue to increase time and then begin to start doing more with the others. If he begins to react, i have pushed him too far. Behaviour is always information! I hate to see it when trainers describe anxious dogs as bossy, Arthur is unhappy being alone. So he must learn it is a positive thing. Keep an eye on his blog to see how he progresses on this one! I have a feeling it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
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.
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.
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!
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!