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Anxious dog - advice needed

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Ami, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Ami

    Ami New Member Registered

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    hi everyone. Thanks for reading. ... 3 months ago I took on a Springer Doodle bitch. She’s 18 months old and had been homed with her ‘same litter’ brother up until then.

    Since I’ve taken her on she’s been mostly great, her recall is fab, she’s obedient and is happy in the home, even when the kids are all over her and she’s a soppy thing! However there are a couple of behaviours that I’m hoping to train her out of but need some help and advice as to go about this.

    Firstly, she is a puller! She’s mostly eager, but she doesn’t seem to respond well to a heel call. What’s the best technique to get her to walk alongside me?

    Secondly, she is very anxious around other other dogs. Especially when they’re in the distance. She’ll bark and howl and run toward them and then back off continuing to bark and howl. If she manages to get close enough to have a good sniff then she tends to settle with them, but before she’s got to that point she’s already caused quite a disturbance. Obviously this can be unnerving for other dogs and it’s an embarrassing situation as her master to explain that she’s just a softy!!

    What do you think is behind this behaviour and how can I go about working it out of her ?


    Thanks so much for reading and for any comments :)
     
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Dogs have a sort of basic instinct to pull - it's called oppositional reflex and it's related to avoiding threats. That can be demonstrated in people too - if I pulled you towards me, your instinctive reaction would be to pull away. So we teach the dog that when she feels pressure at the end of the lead, rather than pulling, she holds back to maintain some slack. One of the best ways of training this is shown in this video

    For her behaviour with other dogs, do you know if she did this while her brother was with her? It sounds like an anxiety issue and could be due to.losing her brother's support. The first thing I would suggest is to keep well way from other dogs, so that might mean finding somewhere more remote or walking at different times for a bit, to let her stress levels come down. The stress hormone can stay in the body for 48 hours and you will find working with her easier if you start with an empty stress tank. Second, she doesn't need to meet other dogs and have a sniff - you don't shake hands with every person you meet in the supermarket; canine behaviours are similar - they wouldn't naturally choose to interact with all others.

    She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure and from what you have said, in her case it is quite a long distance. Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is relaxed. Reward this calm behaviour. Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. But - don't forget that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance she was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

    Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration (your dog might cope for 10 seconds, but not 15) and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

    Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.
     
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  3. Ami

    Ami New Member Registered

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    Thanks Joanne. Do you think a one on one session with a dog trainer may help too??
     
  4. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Yes, always useful to observe you and your dog from a third party perspective - they will see things that you don't because you are too close to the situation. But - and it's a big but - choose your trainer or behaviourist very carefully. Someone who has kept up to date with canine cognitive science and uses force free, reward based training. Anyone who tries to be heavy handed with your nervous dog will do a lit of damage and could result in her behaviours stopping because they are suppressed rather than resolved. On that note, the Dogs Trust has apparently lodged a complaint with Channel 5 over their current dog programme featuring the dreadful trainer who is leaving behind a trail of damaged dogs that other people are having to work very hard to help (sorry, rant over).
     
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  5. Sezzy

    Sezzy Well-Known Member Registered

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    Sounds similar to my Sproodle. Misty absolutely adores people, but has never liked other dogs. We have got used to her ways now, so if she doesn’t want to say hello to another dog then we don’t force it (just the same as I don’t particularly want to stop and chat to everyone we see!).
    She has always been a puller. Wherever we are going she wants to get there as soon as possible, especially if there is goito be off lead running the destination. She now wears a harness which helps and gives us more control. Other than that it is just treating at the right time and doing it over and over again.
    Good luck :)
     
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  6. Ami

    Ami New Member Registered

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    Thank you :)
     
  7. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    Definitely always have her on a harness- I've had four spaniels, they all pull because they are bred to go forward ahead of their handlers and flush game to be shot! You can't do that walking to heel. This information will be no help at all in stopping her pulling but may make you look upon her over-exuberance more sympathetically.;) I'm really not sure you can ever 'train out' this sort of deep instinct in the breed. I actually like that side of spaniels which is why I always have one! Of course you can modify the behaviour to some extent but I guess it's a bit like trying to train a bloodhound not to sniff. Good luck and enjoy her anyway. You'll find she pulls a lot less after a good walk involving a chance to do spaniel stuff. A hour this morning flushing every last thing out of the woods meant my two yo cocker trotted home beside me on a loose lead. A first!
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2019
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  8. Ami

    Ami New Member Registered

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    Thank you. That’s a good insight and one that I’ll take on board. :)
     

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