Q&A September 2015 – Answers from Karis, our Rogz Wrangler (Animal Behaviourist)



Question: Elaine O’Brien I have a seven month Cavoodle pup who is very submissive around other dogs (usually rolls on her back, belly up) and is terrified if a dog barks and she can’t see it. Will she grow out of these behaviours? Thanks

Answer: Hi Elaine, The best way to help a dog’s confidence around other dogs is to spend much more time around other dogs, not less. Without more socialising your pup’s nervousness will probably get worse as she gets older, not better. However, being submissive and being nervous are two very different things. There is nothing wrong with being submissive; for some dogs that’s just their natural reaction to other dogs. Rolling on your back is the most sensible thing to do when you meet a bigger, older dog! She may naturally do that less in a few years time. You will probably notice when she meets puppies she doesn’t roll on her back, but if she meets a mature dog she will. But if your sense is that she is genuinely scared of other dogs the ideal situation would be to find some calm, easy going dogs for your girl to spend time with. The best scenario is that you can find some dogs to go on walks with who will more or less ignore your pup. Picture an old sweet dog who isn’t fussed by much. The more dogs she is around the better. Obviously, not aggressive dogs, but friendly, happy dogs are the best teachers for her as to what is normal dog behaviour. Another idea is to find a good training class where she will be around other dogs, but will learn to ignore them by focusing on you. Any dog with Poodle in them is also prone to barking when alerted to any strange noise. Training, again, would be helpful here. You can teach her to “leave it” or “watch” both of which are helpful in keeping a dog’s attention on you and not barking at other things. I hope that’s helpful to you.

Question: Victoria Thorn-Mcleish Hi, I have a 3 yr old Staffy. We rescued him a year ago and have been working on his manners. He’s doing well the problem is when we take him out in the ute or car he gets soooooooooo excited he makes the worst yelp noise ever. We have a crate for him to travel in so he is safe. How do we calm him down and stop the noise as its very distracting when driving. Thanks

Answer: Hi Victoria, Oh that staffy yelpy/squeak is hard on the ears! Especially in the closed space of a car. I sympathise. Try the following: Have him spend lots of time going in and out of the car. Put him in the car and give him something to chew on, then take him out after a few minutes. If you are nipping down to the shops for milk, take him along. You want teach him that getting into the car doesn’t always result in a wonderful trip to the dog park, or anything exciting for that matter. When he makes noise in the car, don’t say anything. If you should or keep telling him to be quiet, he will likely make more noise because you are making sounds also! One of my favourite things to tell my clients is that dogs don’t speak English; when a dog is excited anything you shout sounds like you are barking with them! See if you can find a really nice juicy bone (one that your vet says is ok) or something super delicious for your dog. If you find something yummy enough he may well learn to lick or chew in his crate while you are driving. He won’t be able to yelp if his mouth is busy with something else. Also, I’ve had lots of success clicker training dogs for a “quiet” command in the car. Check out how to start clicker training your dog on line. Once he has the basics (understands that the click means a treat is on its way) they you can click him for a moment of silence, which will communicate to him that silence is what you want in the car. Click often for moments of silence, slowly increasing the amount of time he must be quiet before he gets a reward. Clicking is MUCH more effective and kind that screaming at a nosey dog, which often happens out of pure frustration! Happy Driving!

Question: Jodie Anderson I have a 3yo Bitser who alway licks everyone when we go to dog parks instead of playing with the dogs she will just keep licking their mouths how can I stop her from doing this and get her playing more.?

Answer: Hello Jodie, Licking of the mouth is a very submissive gesture, its the same thing a puppy does to a mother dog to get her to bring up solid food as they are weaning off of milk. When adult dogs do this it can be a way to make friends (“I’m friendly; let’s play”), but this is normally just a quick lick or two followed by normal run around play. It sounds like your dog is insistent on constantly licking, even if other dogs try to pull their heads away to avoid it. This sort of social behaviour is a strange contradiction of acting very submissive, but being pushy at the same time, and other dogs probably get very irritated with your girl. At three years old this will be a tricky habit to change, so please be patient. I would suggest you get her a pheromone collar from your vet to start with. The effect of the pheromones is that dogs “feel safe” and more confident. I use them both with aggressive and anxious dogs. Hopefully for your dog is will help a possible insecurity that has resulted in her not settling into a more normal playtime. I would also suggest you find some dog owners to go on regular off lead walks or hikes with other dog friends. For some dogs, running around at the park while their owners stay in one place is not their best social situation. By going on a walk, an adventure, and moving with other dogs won’t give her time to lick constantly as everyone will be going somewhere. Its important that you find a safe place where all the dogs can be loose and do what comes naturally to them. That, combined with the pheromones, may teach her a different way to interact with dogs. You will need to get into a normal routine of regular off lead walking, its not a once off fix. Lastly, don’t get upset with her for the licking yourself. Any negative attention from you will probably probably make her behaviour more frantic. To change this she will need to feel calmer and more relaxed around other dogs, not worried she will get in trouble. 

Question: Karrie Botha I have a delightful and eager to please 6 month old puppy. (Cross Australian cattle dog and blue tick hound) There are 2 areas we are struggling with. She is herding us(nipping ankles and calves) and occasionally jumps up. How do we deal with this?

Answer: Hi Karrie, What a lovely sounding dog (I know because I think I met one of your dog’s brothers in a training session…).  For the herding of ankles (a favourite Cattle Dog hobby) you need to make the game no more fun for her. When she nips at your legs stand still and say “Ah-ha” or “Stop” and then, without any excitement from you, calmly take her into the bathroom and leave her there for two minutes as a time out. If a dog is trying to play inappropriately, a time out by themselves is the best way to stop it. You may need to leave a short lead on her when you are interacting with her for a little while so you can easily grab her and take her for the time out. (The worse thing to do is run or scream when a dog goes for your legs, that’s exactly what they want you to do! ) Then let her out of the room and take her back again when she nips. After several trips for a timeout she will figure out that its not working. If she thinks about nipping, just use your “stop” word and that should be enough to halt her in her tracks. A great substitute for ankle bitting is to teach her to play soccer. Find a nice size ball that she can “herd” and move with her mouth. When she plays with her soccer ball get really excited with her, chase her, get involved with the game. By contrast nipping your leg will become a bad option. When she jumps on you, turn your back. If you push her down that can become a bit of a game, dogs like to be pushed sometimes, so its best not to reward her for jumping with any sort of touch. If she’s way too excited you can also employ the stop-word/bathroom routine as with the ankle nipping. The most effective solution for not jumping is to teach her to sit if she wants attention. Anytime she sits near you touch her and tell her she is brilliant. Be proactive and teach her to sit by lifting a treat slightly above her nose and say “sit” when her bum hits the floor. Practice “sit” during the day, call her to you and ask for a sit and then give her a treat.

Question: Project for Paws Hi Karis! I have three mutts, a terrier (probably Jack Russell and/or Pitbull), a senior beagle, and a young Jack Russell. They are all rescues and the youngest, Violet, came into our family in the early summer. The Pitbull/Jack Russell, Bigby, was once very high-strung and anxious after being rescued, due to past abuse. Bigby has finally settled down and become a very brave, gentle dog, though he has a mild case of separation anxiety at times. The addition of Violet to our family seems to have upset him. It’s not to the point where she cannot stay with us, but that Bigby is uncomfortable around her. All three dogs are very loving, amazing dogs. I have faith that they will eventually learn to like each other, and not just tolerate, but I would be very grateful for any tips you may be willing to share. Any ideas on how we can help Bigby calm down around Violet? Thank you so much!

Answer: Hi there Lili, First thing to do is get pheromone collars for both Violet and Bigby. I brought them up in regards to another question this week; pheromone collars are very helpful for dogs who are tense and nervous for whatever reason, including in integrating new dogs into a household. They naturally calm dogs and make the other dogs “smell” friendly to everyone else. Leave the collars on 24 hours a day for the next few weeks. You can find them at your local vet or online. Since the dogs are tolerating, but not enjoying each other, my most helpful suggestion is a rather simple one; take the dogs out for lots of walks together. Twice a day if you can. Better to go on lots of short walks than a few longer walks a week. Ideally the dogs should be off lead (in a safe area) so they can just be free to be dogs together. Dogs who go out on adventures together almost always become friends, the outings tend to bond them beautifully. I’m not sure how old your beagle is, but if he doesn’t need as much exercise then leave him at home sometimes and take the two younger ones out. Giving the dogs consistent exercise together also serves to simply poop them out, and as we all know, tired dogs are good dogs! When pooches are exhausted they simply don’t have the extra energy for being irritated with each other. Lots of walks together will get all their body rhythms together, they will want to nap at the same time for example, and this also helps to make a peaceful home. If meal times is at all tense for Bigby then feed the dogs in different rooms. Don’t put him in a situation where he feels that Violet might try to steal his supper. I wish you lots of luck and hope you have one big happy home soon.

Question: Linda Brongers How can you ban obsessive behaviour from a (border collie) dog’s mind?

Answer: Hello Linda,  Border collies are the most obsessive breed there is, we humans have bred them that way; that’s the kind of focus that keeps them able to stay with herds of sheep for hours and hours. You can train your collie to focus and obsess over things you want, like a frisbee, ball, clicker, agility equipment, or doing tricks for example. But to get a collie to not want to be obsessive in the first place isn’t realistic. Any more than you can teach a cow to chase a rabbit and eat it for supper. Animals will do what is is their inherent nature, you can’t stop your collie being a collie. If you have one of these intense dogs (I have one myself) the best way to deal with the obsessive or repetitive tendencies is to teach your dog lots of different behaviours. That way if your dog wants to keeping turning in a circle to the right, for example, you can ask him to bring a ball instead, or play dead, or sit up on his hind legs. Collies who are not given a job to do will become more and more obsessive about things. If you dog is pretty “nutty”, he probably bored and needs more work to do, more interaction from you where you are asking behaviours from him and rewarding him with a treat or a game. There are many wonderful books and information available out there. Look up “Trick training” or “Clicker training for tricks” and you will find a wealth of information at your finger tips. 


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