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I came across your site while I was desperately surfing the net to find someone who can help me with an issue I have with one of my dogs. My husband and I live in Dubai and we have 2 dogs mixed breed dogs that get along really well. 

One of our dogs, Bailey, is literally scared of anyone. He is fine with us petting him but he is not ok with anyone else. He was about 2 months when we got him and he was scared then. I thought it would pass by eventually.

The major problem I have with Bailey is that I can’t get him to walk on the leash, so whenever we need to take him out to the vet or grooming salon, we have to carry him! So we don’t do walks with him because he runs away whenever I take the leash. I was hoping you could guide me with some points of action.

Warm Regards,
A Concerned Owner

Dear Concerned Owner,
Thank you for your e-mail. I hope these guidelines will be of some use to you–know that they are my personal opinion and fit in with my personal training philosophy of positive reinforcement and intervention.
I had a dog who was very fearful, so I am familiar with the issues involved with fearful dogs and them “shutting down” and needing to be carried. Let me say that with fearful dogs it is all about TRUST which takes a long, long time. Take small steps, knowing that this issue is far harder to cure than aggression or dominance because of the time it takes to cure. But it is possible!! Here are some thoughts for you to consider.
1) When you pet a dog, you are rewarding their state of mind whether you mean to or not. When a baby is scared, you pick it up and comfort it, but that is not what you should do with dogs. When you pet a fearful dog you are telling him “keep being scared, and I will keep giving you attention”. It is impossible to correct fear through affection; you cannot love your dog into being unafraid. When Bailey is afraid, it is best to not give him any touch, any eye contact, or any vocal attention. Ignore the issue. By ignoring you will be transferring the message “there is nothing to worry about”. Read more about the the right time to give affection here.
2) To help Bailey with his issue of fearing people and strangers, you need to instruct visitors to not look at, touch, or talk to Bailey. Just have them completely ignore him. Dogs learn to trust through smell, then sight, then sound. Once enough visitors come through without giving any attention to Bailey at all, he will want to experience them in this order: sniffing them (continue to ignore!), then looking at them, and then being touched/talked to.
3) I agree with you, that the biggest issue is not being able to walk Bailey. The longer a dog goes without walking, the more energy he will have built up into his system, and the longer he will fight you to not have to face his fear. The first thing I would do is put a leash on him, and let him do something he loves (ex. eat, play with a ball, given a bone, etc) and don’t touch the leash, let him drag it around. He needs to associate the leash with something good, not with something bad (remember, this takes time). Then he needs to learn that wearing a leash means forward motion. In order to teach him this, you need to show him some tough love. Don’t look at him or talk to him, but apply gentle pressure to the leash (ex. pull on the leash with just two fingers). Don’t release the tension until he makes any kind of forward movement. As soon as he steps forward reward him by relaxing the tension. Then do it again, and again. Do this only inside the house until he is moving in any direction with the leash on (may take days!). Then I would carry him/drive him to an area he has never been before (he may associate outside your front door with fear since that has always been his battleground). Then do the same thing outside: apply steady pressure on the leash until he moves, then reward him by relaxing the tension. When you encounter something that makes him fearful, practice no touch, no talk, and no eye contact. Then ask him to move forward again.
Lastly, I am a firm believer in treadmills since it forces the fearful dog to move forward. If you have access to one, please read my article on treadmills!

Hope these things give you something to think about. You CAN make Bailey the dog of your dreams!

Lead your dog!

So in case you didn’t know, a child is not a dog and a dog is not a child. I’m convinced that some people do NOT realize that this is true because they treat their dog like a child, but this has definitely become apparent to me since I gave birth six weeks ago. Dogs are pretty much black and white. You say something is wrong, and they respond. You feed them the same amount at the same time everyday after taking them to the same tree and nobody complains. But a child has a mind of their own to respond as they feel. A four ounce bottle may suffice for lunch, but not dinner. A child poops for 10 minutes, you change their diaper, and they respond by peeing on you and then soiling the next diaper. I DO think that dogs prepare a couple for parenting in many respects, but right now I am realizing how different being a parent and being a pack leader can be. There are lots of similarities (which I may expand on in a future post), but for now they are different! And actually, it’s a good thing. I am learning lots over here!

On a happy note, the dogs are adjusting perfectly to Emma’s presence in our home. No improper behavior toward her whatsoever. All our prepping paid off!

Lead your dog!

My first daughter Emma Penelope Shih was born on September 23rd at 4:12pm. She weighed 7lb 0oz and was 20.5″ long. We are adjusting very well, but life is full! The dogs are at my in-laws, allowing my husband and I to get used to this wild ride without focusing on training. I imagine you will be hearing of our training experiences when the dogs come back!

In the meantime, lead your dog!

Snapping the leash is a form of discipline that throws your dog off balance. It makes him lose his concentration, stops him from doing a behavior, conditions him to avoid the thing he’s doing, and prevents excitement from escalating.

To properly perform a leash correction, you must start with a loose leash. If there is tension on the leash (aka, if your dog is pulling), you won’t be able to do this properly. Bring your hand down near your dog’s neck–if you have a small dog you will have to bend over. Quickly jerk the leash to the side (NOT back), and then immediately let the leash loose again. The leash should be taunt for less than 2 seconds.

When you do a leash correction, make sure that you are not timid, anxious, nervous, or excited. As the leader, you need to be calm and assertive in your corrections or else your dog won’t take you seriously.  If done correctly, with the right intensity and energy and timing, you should see your dog respond by lowering the head, looking at you, sitting down, or putting the ears back. A properly timed leash correction can change a dog’s behavior instantly and a smart dog needs only to be corrected in this way once or twice before getting the message that what they are doing is unacceptable behavior.

Lead your dog!

The most common type of obsessive barking occurs when a dog is focused on what it cannot reach (usually out the window or at another dog while on a leash).  It may or may not happen when you are home with your dog, but it most certainly happens when you are gone! “How can I stop my dog from barking when I’m gone?” you may wonder, and I sincerely hope that these suggestions prove beneficial to you and your neighbors!

1) Exercise. If a dog is properly exercised, the occurrences of obsessive barking are almost entirely eliminated.  Walking, jogging, or biking with your dog are the best ways to exercise since they help you relate side-to-side with your dog (which is extremely important to all canines). Other exercise forms would be fetching, a trip to the dog park, fetching up and down the stairs, or having your dog learn to ride a treadmill. I recommend at least a 30 minute walk twice a day for a barker (you can read about mastering the walk here).

2) Training.  You can train your dog not to bark out the window by taking the following steps. First, make sure your dog is exercised. Second, place a leash on your dog (preferable not a flexi-leash since you cannot give a proper leash correction with one easily). Third, purposefully create the barking scenario. You need to make the barking occur so that you can stop it in that moment (thus showing your dog what is expected of them). For example, if your dog is a leash barker, walk past lots of other dogs. If your dog is a window barker, ask a friend to walk in front of the window with their dog. Fourth, correct early on. As soon as your dog begins to become obsessed (you’re looking for level 2 excitement–don’t wait until level 10 when they are already barking like crazy) give a calm, quiet leash correction to the side (think “snap” of the leash: loose, tense for 1 second, then loose again). Give the correction when your dog’s ears go up, his tail becomes alert, or he gets anxious.  Do not become frustrated. You are teaching your dog a new concept: that barking is no longer acceptable behavior. Remember that when you discipline your dog you are disagreeing with the behavior, not with the dog personally. Fifth, repeat, repeat, repeat!

Once your dog is no longer barking with a leash correction in front of many different dogs (or window distractions), take the leash off and repeat some more. You are now teaching your dog that it cannot bark even with the leash off. Now is the time to use auditory or physical corrections (snap your fingers, say “ah-ah”, block your dog from getting closer to its target, use “the touch“, etc). It will make much more sense to your dog if you come between them and the thing you are barking–do not try to call them away. Another note: if you have more than one dog that is an obsessive barker, target the stronger one/instigator. Whenever you have two dogs, one is the leader and one is the follower. By correcting the leader/instigator first, the follower will calm down too.

3) Don’t give them reason to worry. If your dog is a alone-at-home barker, one way to diminish barking is by conveying to them the idea that it’s no big deal to be home alone, and that the home is a place of rest. You can help your dog understand this by not working them up when you come and go. Don’t say “ok, honey, Mommy’s going to leave now, but you just stay home and be a good boy!” Nonchalantly pick up your keys and go without a word to your pup. When you come home, practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact to help your dog understand that it’s no big deal when you come home either (I realize that this takes a lot of self discipline, but it IS worth it to your pet!). Feel free to love and cuddle your dog like crazy when they are being calm. Your goal as pack leader and authority figure is to promote calmness in your canine (this is what pack leaders do in the wild).

4) Authority. As you take charge of your dog by showing them that you are in control of every situation, you will see their behavior improve in other areas of life as well. All dogs want to be followers. Your dog will live a more contented, happy-go-lucky life if you don’t let them rule the roost.

Lead your dog!

I am beginning my 38th week of pregnancy today and I have recently noticed a change in my dogs’ behavior! They have been quite calm even though we haven’t been able to exercise properly for weeks and they have both taken to sleeping in the nursery for hours everyday. Last Saturday my schnauzer wouldn’t come when I called him–he insisted on staying in the nursery (usually he’s glued to my leg)! I mentioned something about this on facebook and two people mentioned to me that their dogs did the same thing the week before they gave birth! Isn’t that absolutely fascinating that dogs can be in-tune with subtle changes that humans have no idea about?!

Have any of you heard (or experienced) a change in your dog’s behavior before giving birth?

Hoping to have this little girl very soon! Lead your dog!