Tonight I even have been working with an Italian greyhound that has a barking problem around other dogs in addition to a deep fear of other dogs. It doesn’t matter where her owner takes her, she is going to see a dog and begin barking and lunging, she has a really loud bark for such a small dog and she will go on for a very long time. From the moment her owner brought her out of the automobile, she was in full cry, barking, pulling and stressing.
The behaviour and the extent of the behaviour were really worrying the owner. She has had the dog since she was a baby and the dog is now 18 months old and has apparently, been behaving like this from a really early age.
Now, while you get a dog behaving in this fashion from a really early age, there may be a reason for it but what’s much more remarkable is the owner has put up with it for therefore long. Italian greyhounds usually are not quite common as pets, I even have only seen a handful in all of the years I even have been training dogs they usually are a stunning breed so what had happened to this young female to make her behave in this fashion?
If you have got read any of my work, you’ll have heard the phrase “we create the dogs behaviour” and the identical is true here and once I had a conversation with the owner in regards to the early days of getting the dog and what she was allowed to do, the inevitable pattern began to emerge. To be fair, it isn’t the owners fault as they were just following all of the same old advice that’s trotted out and regurgitated ad nauseum by every dog owner you ever meet because they’ve heard it from every dog owner they ever met so it should be true. That advice is you have to socialise your puppy and get her used to other dogs. The difficulty is most owners interpret this to mean you let your puppy approach other dogs and learn from the results, whether good or bad. Owners appear to consider all dogs will likely be fantastic with all of the dogs they ever meet in order that they gladly send their recent puppy away from them to fulfill and greet older dogs at will and hope the puppy will know what to do!
Do you think that the puppy’s mother would allow her baby to place herself at risk? No she wouldn’t; she would be certain her baby is protected and secure together with her. So, by letting a brand new puppy approach other dogs, do you think that you might be becoming an appropriate substitute in your puppy’s mother? Well that is strictly what try to be doing, simply because it’s a dog, she still needs caring for and searching after, not being positively encouraged to depart you and see how she fares with older dogs she doesn’t even know.
To place that into context, would you let a 3 12 months old child go and play with a bunch of kids with an age range of 9 – 14 years and leave them to their very own devices? I’d hope not yet we appear to think it’s perfectly OK to just do that with our puppy, who’s just another person’s baby we have now taken on to take care of.
What does this mean to the puppy? It means she is going to find the corporate of other dogs fearful and stressful because she is literally on her own and is counting on her wits and instincts to survive. Her recent family are nowhere to be seen in order that they clearly don’t care about her so she feels completely on her own.
Because that is repeated, probably on daily basis, she learns if she runs at the opposite dogs barking, their owners take their dogs away from her so she doesn’t have to fulfill them and be scared. Then this behaviour becomes reinforced by her owner who will tell her off for barking and can attempt to call her back from the opposite dog. This, in fact, just reinforces the behaviour because she interprets your interaction as a reward so she does it more and also you give this behaviour much more response and it quickly becomes a longtime and entrenched behaviour which is teaching the dog to be ever more stressed around other dogs.
Within the space of an hour, she was walking on a slack lead together with her owner ignoring the opposite dogs and this was achieved without force, fear, commands, food or toys. When the dog gave the behaviour the owner wanted, she was rewarded with praise and fuss, when she went towards one other dog, this behaviour made her owner walk in the wrong way so the puppy followed her and received praise and fuss for making the proper decision. It is so simple as that, when you realize how.