Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sleepy Alice

I love this little girl, but sometimes I need reminding of that. She can be such a monster when we’re out for our walks. She gets so excited and loves it so much that she forgets herself, me, training... everything, except running and looking out for potential prey. Her prey drive is so strong that she’s looking around all the time for movement; for something to chase. She doesn’t try and chase Daisy quite as much as she did at first because most of the time Daisy doesn’t want to be chased and has her way of saying no - snapping and turning away rather than running off - although she will sometimes run and let Alice chase her. Alice’s target now is Comet. Every time she goads him - by pushing her muzzle into his neck and grrrring - he will respond and eventually start running. They run together with Comet snapping at her and Alice pushing the muzzle into his neck - if she didn’t have the muzzle on, she would definitely bring him down. When Comet has had enough he comes back to me and stops running, but Alice’s adrenalin keeps pumping and she keeps grrrring at him and pushing the muzzle into his neck quite aggressively. This is when I step in, but it’s hard to calm her down when the rush is still there. 

I know from seeing how Daisy has stopped running that if Comet didn’t want to be chased he wouldn’t run, so I don’t intervene unless Alice gets too over-the-top. But my worry is that Alice is learning that this is how she interacts with other dogs and that she’ll become even more of a problem to walk with other dogs. So far she is much more subdued when we walk with other dogs (she was fine with Adrian’s 4 dogs on Friday), but I can see from her body language that every so often the adrenalin will start pumping - she’s looking around for prey rather than just trotting along with the other dogs and sniffing things. That’s when she’ll start goading Comet, even when other dogs are around. If any of the other dogs start chasing her she stops, but if they don’t then she’ll keep trying to bring Comet down. I’m not sure what to do about this, but for now I’m trying to take them out with other dogs as much as I can. I’m going to think more about how it is that the adrenalin rush and excitement can stop suddenly when there are other dogs there who start intervening. Maybe if I watch more closely what is going on I’ll be able to work out how to trigger that myself.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday, 23 May

The work I've been doing with Alice since the meeting with Jim has taught me 2 key things:
  1. You need to watch your dog for signs - their body-language; signs of what they might be about to do; what they are doing, and how they are reacting to their environment. I thought I knew about dogs, and about my dogs in particular but I've never really (I mean really) concentrated on watching them in this way. It's been a revelation and I can now see so many aspects of their behaviour in a different way. Chasing isn't just about running after each other; there's more going on depending on what happened before they started, who the dogs are, where they are, etc.
  2. It takes time - I always knew this, but I've now learned that time means more than a couple of weeks. It means weeks, months, maybe for the rest of their life. Giving it time means understanding and accepting that from this point on the way you interact with your dog is going to change. From now on you are taking on a particular way of working with your dog, which includes watching for signs and using specific training instructions as much as you can every day. Never miss an opportunity to give an instruction, watch your timing, correct when necessary and praise.... and do it over and over again.
Alice is a different dog from the little girl I brought home and it's entirely due to the training I've been taking her to with Andrew and the visit from Jim. She's almost unrecognisable. Whereas for the first few months it was a constant battle to get her to do what I wanted, now she looks to me for direction for at least 50% of the time, and this can only get better. I think she's a happier dog as a result. She still has a strong character, but she's not the little monster she used to be. I'm so glad I persevered and decided to keep her. It's been a very interesting and rewarding learning curve and has enabled a lovely little girl to emerge.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Thursday, 22 May

There have been some interesting and positive things happening with Alice over the past weeks. I've been away so missed writing up before now.

A few weeks back I noticed that Alice was not chasing Daisy the way she used to. It's even got to the point now where Daisy can run as much as she likes and Alice just watches or ignores her. However, what she's now doing is chasing Comet. I'm not concerned about this because I know from the experience with Daisy, that if they don't want to be chased they won't run. So the fact that Comet runs means he is OK with being chased. Alice gets quite rough with him but he doesn't seem to be bothered. He keeps running until he's had enough and then comes to a halt near me and Alice joins him.

Their relationship is interesting. They are playing together much more than in the first 6 months that I had Alice. It always used to be Alice and Daisy play-fighting and Comet keeping out of it, but now it's much more Comet and Alice play-fighting and Daisy watching. Every evening Alice gets onto the sofa and Comet comes in and starts barking and lunging at her. Sometimes she just lays there but others she responds and jumps at him and they end up having a play-tussle. It seems like he's telling her that even though she's on the sofa and he's on the floor, he's the boss.

I've had some bad experiences over recent weeks with meeting dogs when Alice is on the lead, but also some which have been much less frenetic so I think there's some progress. Last weekend I decided I would let Alice be off the lead on the water meadows where I take them. There's usually other dogs over there so I've tried to keep away from them. But Alice is always fine with other dogs off the lead when we do the SLR walks so I thought I would see how she was. In fact it was a really good move because she was fine with all the dogs we met - and there were quite a lot of them. By the end of the walk she wasn't taking much notice when a new dog appeared and she was very good about coming back to me. This makes me wonder whether more exposure to dogs off the lead will help her handle seeing dogs on the lead. I'll try again this coming weekend and see.

Here's Alice and Comet snuggling up together.

Scours Lane, alongside the River Thames - where I take the dogs during the week. They did lots of crazy running but also were happy to trot along with me some of the time,

Friday, 25 April 2014

Signs that Alice is looking to me for direction

Out on our morning walk recently Comet went off in one direction and Daisy hung behind sniffing something out in the long grass. Alice was off the lead but made no attempt to run off towards Comet, nor towards Daisy. I didn't say anything to her just watched her reactions. She kept looking towards Comet and then towards Daisy, clearly not sure what to do other than stick with me. She eventually stopped, looked around, and sat down - without any word from me. She clearly couldn't decide what to do. She had that look that said she was about to run off to one of them but when I said "heel" she just trotted over to me. A few months back and there would have been no question she would have been off chasing after one of them rather than trotting alongside me. I think this is a sign of real progress in getting her to focus on me rather than on anything and everything that is going on around her... small steps!

Friday, 25 April

More interesting interaction between the dogs this morning. Comet is doing a great job of chasing Alice and making her stop chasing Daisy. I understand now that if Daisy doesn''t want to be chased she wouldn't run so I don't try to stop them anymore. But directly Comet spots the chase has started, wherever he is, he's off after them. He doesn't stop until his caught her somehow - usually by grabbing her coat, or if she's slowed down he grabs her leg. He always has a very self-satisfied look on his face and a very bouncy, happy, walk back to me after his succeeded in stopping her and calming her down. Alice always has a go at him when he tries to stop her, but he doesn't over-react. He just keeps snapping, turns his side towards her until he's decided she's stopped, and then trots away. Alice always stands still for a few seconds and then usually comes trotting back to me. It's fascinating watching him as I can't tell when Alice has submitted but obviously Comet knows the signs. I'm really grateful to Jim for showing me how to watch their behaviour more closely so as to understand what's going on. Good boy Comet!!!

Here's a slightly longer video. You can see that Alice is the fastest but Comet doesn't give up. In this one he manages to eventually slow Alice down enough for her not to get so frantic about chasing Daisy. I think he's going to be a help in getting Alice's prey and chase instincts under more control ... hopefully!

Easter Monday - Burkham Woods

Lovely SLR walk at Burkham Woods. Some people and dogs I'd not met before which was good, including India. It was interesting to watch her behaviour with other dogs... a strong dominance streak but her tail got hurt at one point and she cried and cried and ran straight back to Nicola for reassurance and comfort. Since meeting with Jim I've found I'm watching dog behaviour much more carefully now and feel I'm getting better at understanding what is going on.

Alice did her usual chasing Daisy, and Comet intervened, as usual, but they soon stopped and joined in with the other dogs. Daisy mixes with the other dogs very well and loves to run and explore with them, but I never see her getting involved if there are any spats. She somehow manages to spot what's about to happen and keep out of the way. Comet doesn't want to get involved but he's often picked on. He gives some yelps and runs back to me and then it's all forgotten and he runs off with the other dogs again, but tends to keep fairly close to me throughout the walks. Alice loves to be with the other dogs and if any of the dogs kick-off she will run forwards with the pack. She's careful to not get involved but she still wants to be up front seeing what's happening. Like Comet, she usually gets picked on at some point but immediately submits and runs back to me for reassurance and then is off again.

I'm hoping to go for more walks at Burkham so that we can join Nicola and her pack again and see how Alice interacts with India, who won't stand for any nonsense from Alice. Hopefully next time Daisy will resist dunking her nose in the mud!!!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sunday, 13 April

Busy weekend: drove down to Alresford on Friday to pick up Barney a 7 month old Lurcher who was coming into SLR for fostering. I had to take him to the Newbury Dog Show the next day and hand him over to Phillipa who was keeping him for the night, and pick up Sam another young Lurcher who needed transporting to South Mimms.  I really liked Barney. He's a lovely happy little boy and I could easily have kept him... if I didn't already have 3 dogs!

Barney was due to be fostered in Maidenhead so I offered to meet Phillipa on Sunday morning for a walk and to pick up Barney and take him to meet his new foster mum.

I met Phillipa in Tadley on a common where there were lots of dog walkers. Alice wasn't great, but I think there's some small progress with the barking. I thought it would be good for me to take here where there would be lots of other dogs - if I don't do this then I'm not going to get a chance to teach her how to behave. I think there's some progress. She's still getting agitated and barking but I'm able to temper this more now and she's not going quite so ballistic. I think it's going to be some time before she stops reacting but for now if I keep concentrating on keeping in front of her, walking at normal pace and making eye contact with her while she's trying to bark then hopefully she will get less and less agitated and eventually take no notice. It's going to be a long haul, but having to write this diary has helped me to see that there's some progress, even if it's only small steps.

Here's the lovely Bruno... makes me sigh just thinking about him. He gave me such a lovely snuggle when I was handing him over to his new foster mum. He was obviously feeling anxious and had bonded with me after just one day together and didn't like the thought of me going. I hope he's having a happy time with his new family.

All About Dogs Show, Newbury 12 April 2014

I took the dogs to the dog show at Newbury along with Jaeme and Lewis (the kids who live near me). I thought there would be somewhere to put down a rug and have a base-camp, but there wasn't so we had to keep walking round. There were lots of dogs there so it wasn't a pleasant experience as Alice kept wanting to bark and even Comet started snapping at some dogs. I think it was all too much for them, and a lesson learned for me.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Manor Farm Walk - 6 April 2014

Took the dogs down to Manor Farm Country Park near Botley for an SLR walk. Romi hires the field for us to use to let all the dogs off in a secure environment. They all loved it. Both Daisy and Comet tended to stay away from the crazy chasing but they still enjoyed themselves. It was interesting watching Alice. When she initiated a chase other dogs joined in and when they did she immediately held back a bit. There was a group of dogs that were intent on chasing and it looked as though she was a bit intimidated by them when they joined in. I was expecting her to display her strong prey drive and try to bring dogs down (I had her muzzled so she couldn't actually bring them down), but although she started the chase in this way, she immediately let the others take over when the really serious chasers started. This gave me some hope that as she matures that drive will diminish and that maybe taking her for more SLR walks with a larger group of dogs will help temper the instinct as well.

It was embarrassing to see that my 3 were in every shot of someone feeding treats to dogs - Alice is at the head of the pack with the red edge to her coat. I say "my three" as I've now adopted Alice. Nearly 9 months and nobody else wanted her so she's staying, and Daisy and Comet are going to have to keep up the controlling tactics.

Saturday, 5 April 2014


We had another difficult encounter with a dog in the week during which Alice went berserk. It was along the narrow towpath again. I saw the dog coming and put her on the side away from the dog but I couldn't stop her barking. I'm not sure how I should have handled it... maybe I should have turned and walked the other way. The problem was the dog's owner was jogging so they would have caught up with us. I'll definitely try to think about doing this next time, and decided I had to just put this down to one step along the way to getting her behaviour under control.

Today was much more promising. We went for an early morning walk to Sonning Meadows, further along the River Thames, downstream from where I walk the dogs during the week. It's wide open fields with lots of room for them to run. There were quite a few dogs out but they were a long way off so I made sure they were out of sight before letting any of the dogs off the lead. Before I could do this I saw someone I regularly bump into. He has a whippet that he keeps on the lead and a Weimeraner bitch who runs free. He's really nice and very understanding of Alice's behaviour. He's seen her go berserk every time we meet him and he takes no notice. This time I positioned myself in front of Alice and bent down to make eye contact with her. I said "hey" "hey" to her every time she tried to look around me. She made some whimpering noises but there was no barking at all and no lunging at his dogs. I was able to stand near him talking, all the while watching her, without her getting agitated. He even commented how much better she was than normal. I was pleased with how she responded and especially pleased that when I let her off the lead just afterwards she didn't start frantically chasing Daisy like she did the last time I let her off just after meeting another dog. It seemed like this time the adrenaline hadn't kicked in nearly as much so when Comet chased her down she responded and stopped chasing - last time she wouldn't submit.

Here they are chasing with Comet making sure she stopped when he told her. He couldn't quite catch her but he went over to her when she attempted to chase Daisy again. It's interesting to watch his body language and her's as she responds.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Bit of a set-back on Saturday, but still much to learn from it.

I was picking up a pooh on a narrow section of path on the way to the open field where I let the dogs off and behind me a Staffie suddenly appeared off the lead. Alice went berserk and Comet had a bark as well. The owner had another dog on a lead and just carried on walking past without attempting to get control of his off-lead dog, giving me a dirty look as he went.

He was going in the same direction we were heading so I let them get way ahead of me and then let Daisy and Comet off, and then Alice. She immediately started chasing Daisy and when Comet chased her she wouldn't submit. She just kept on bundling with him. I got the impression that her adrenaline had been raised when she had seen the Staffie and she was too hyped to stop chasing when Comet had a go at her.

It was a nice day and being Saturday there were a number of people out walking the tow path, including dogs so I put Alice back on the lead.

There was another dog on the way back to the car, just before we got to the narrow path again and I managed to keep her relatively calm... just a few grumbles, but she was clearly still hyped up.

When I think back over how I handled it I realise I was walking much too slow on the way back and I should have been more aware of the need to walk at a brisk, normal pace. I did try to maintain eye contact and said "hey" "hey" a few times, which worked. But I think she might have been calmer if I had walked more quickly.

As for the first dog, I don't think I could have avoided Alice barking but maybe if I'd walked briskly in the opposite direction to the man and his dogs and concentrated on the heel work and praise this might have calmed her down and she wouldn't have been so hyper by the time I'd walked back to the fields again and let her off.

I'm making Alice wait a few seconds before giving her the reward and have also been doing some more "find it" work... she's almost got it.

This is the narrow path earlier in the year just before it completely flooded, looking back towards where the car is parked. The second photo is the field the path leads to where I let the dogs off the lead - the towpath is to the left. It's a great place for them to run but difficult on the narrow path if I meet anyone with a dog.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Another interesting walk with the dogs today. I'm getting the hang of the lead jerking, especially as I'm doing it with Daisy on one side and Alice on the other - both of them want to be in front - it's a bit like driving a dog sled!

It's fascinating to now see what I hadn't been aware of before about Comet's behaviour and how he and Alice interact when they are off the lead. These videos show it really well.

The pattern is:

  • Daisy wants to be chased so starts running
  • Alice sees the movement and starts chasing her
  • Comet doesn't respond to Daisy but when he sees Alice go he chases her
  • Daisy keeps running but Comet stops Alice and they bounce around each other with Comet nipping Alice until she gives in
  • the final move is Alice stops bouncing, Comet waits a second and then walks off, over to Daisy, or to me, or just to sniff the grass, while Alice stands and waits a moment before moving off. 
Comet sees the signal that Alice has submitted but I can't see it, not yet anyway .... fascinating!!!

Started trying the "find it" with Alice. She's not sure yet, but has started to look around when I say "find it". She knows there's a treat coming but not sure what she needs to do to get it, so she tries sitting and lying down until I persuade her by doing lots of encouraging pointing and saying "find it".

Thursday, 27 March 2014


This is the start of my diary recording progress on getting control over Alice's behaviour when she sees other dogs when she's on the lead. Today is our first day!

I decided to take all the dogs to Scours Lane so that I could work on what I need to do when they are off the lead, rather than walk Alice on her own round the streets. I made myself focus on Alice much more and tried to spot the signs as to what she was about to do.

I let Daisy and Comet off their leads and Alice started to pull to go too. So I did the rapid jerking of the lead and every time she stopped pulling. There was the usual chasing directly I let her off the lead. She chased both dogs for a minute or two then they all came back to me. I rustled the paper in my pocket and made Alice wait a few seconds, paying attention to me, before I gave her a treat. I did this every time she came back to me. Her attention lapsed a little bit but on the whole she kept looking to me while she waited for the treat... which was more than Comet did! So generally some useful practice and positive responses from Alice.

Off the lead chasing was interesting. I didn't intervene and just watched them to try and see if I could work out what was happening. After having spent the time with Jim I'm much more aware now of what to look for and it was fascinating. I felt I got a much better insight into the relationship between Alice and Daisy, and especially between Alice and Comet.

Daisy likes to be chased and will goad Alice to chase her. She can't outrun Alice so she snaps at her if she gets too close and bumps her. There's no sign of aggression, it's just Alice pushing her luck and Daisy letting her know she's going too far. Alice keeps chasing regardless and Daisy keeps snapping, but I can see that this is how their relationship is. I used to think that I should step in and stop Alice because Daisy was getting upset but today I could see, for the first time, that this is very much the game they play: Daisy lets her go quite far and Alice knows this and keeps pushing it, and Daisy keeps snapping at her... it's the game and the roles they play.

What was also interesting was to watch what Comet did and how Alice reacted. Every time Alice started chasing Daisy Comet stopped what he was doing and started chasing both of them. He would bump Alice and grab her coat, snap at her neck or leg and Daisy would peel off and came over to me while Comet jumped at Alice putting her in her place. He kept doing this until Alice adopted a certain stance which to me looked like she was saying, OK, you're boss, I'll stop now. He stayed by her and even chased her until she adopted this stance. He would then trot over to me while Alice stayed where she was, not attempting to chase, then she would trot over to me. It was a fascinating insight into my little man's behaviour which I have never been aware of before. As with Daisy, I used to think I should intervene, but I could see today that they need to work out the relationship for themselves. I used to think that what I was seeing was Comet coming to Daisy's rescue but in fact it's much more about Comet asserting his authority on Alice, and I must leave them to it to work out their relationship. I really think that Comet is going to be a great help in getting Alice to respect the pecking order and that her over-the-top behaviour when she's running with my two will gradually come under control.

Here's Comet putting Alice in her place. Normally it would be Alice doing the chasing, but you can see here that Comet is taking control. Alice takes a few pops at him, but he persists and ends up taking control.... very interesting!

On the way back to the car I put Alice back on the lead and immediately we saw a dog in the distance. I saw that she had seen it and she started to move forward. I turned, bent down a bit to make eye contact and said "hey, hey" and she immediately moved back. I had to do this a few times, but there was no barking and I was able to get her attention away from the dog very easily. Admittedly the dog was some way off and didn't come past us, but I thought it was a good start.