Early Days Settling in or Long Term Issues?

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Early Days Settling in or Long Term Issues?

Post by Dunmallard » Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:48 pm

As I begin this our Alfie is curled up in my lap, his head resting on my right arm, He is peaceful but not asleep. When I next take him outside I am faced with the near certainty this seemingly,peaceful and content little dog will instantly turn into a barking, snarling, lunging, out of control ‘’maniac’’ (as I have overheard him so described by others) at the sight of a cyclist, jogger, dog, lorry, bus, any vehicle displaying headlights, parked cars with passengers and sometimes at the approach of people. We hope all or most of these issues are part of one main problem.

Alfie is a 4 years old JRT cross and joined us from the rescue home (not RR) 19.11.15, as a dog with ‘’no real issues’’ following 18 months of not being walked outside in his previous home. We resolved to settle him in slowly, steadily, gradually, without pressure, with gentle boundaries but in the expectation at least some problems would arise. By only a week in it had become apparent we and Alfie needed help and as the weeks passed that need became ever more so. Yet going by RR, 22.12.15, about allowing adequate ‘’Time to Settle:
''It worries us when people call in behaviourists with the first two weeks. Their dog hasn’t even begun to comprehend where they are and respond to the new regime and expectations. Behaviourists of worth should not intervene for at least 3 months as the dog is a changing picture and it adds expectation, and confusion. Its also rare to find one who owns a ‘true terrier’ and unless you do a lot of the premises you work on are false. We often laugh …yer great for a Spaniel or Labrador but as if a Terrier is going to be controlled and defined in that way. Terrier need a loose approach where they are respected for their tenacity, strident intent and intensity of purpose.''

A truly expert and experienced terrier owner will perhaps know with some confidence and certainty how to proceed with a new terrier and know how to deal with the problems encountered. The rest of us might find us out of our depth very quickly indeed and that is where we feel right now. The difficulty is increased when one learns from RR that terriers do need a somewhat different and looser approach (which I can understand) yet we are also widely advised to ensure to establish boundaries and set limits and rules. So there is plenty of scope for contradiction and which seemingly makes it even more difficult for the less expert of us to know how to proceed, especially in these early months. It is recognised that ‘’ you can’t train the terrier out of a terrier’’ and neither would one want to and indeed it is those very terrier traits that help to make terrier keeping (I avoid using the word ‘’ownership’’) so rewarding.. But that principle sure makes it more difficult for the less expert of us to know what approach is required to deal with behaviour issues and to know to what extent our own approach is to blame.

I am active and looked forward to gradually walking Alfie frequently, lengthily and giving him every rewarding outdoor experience I can but that is largely now on hold, although his enthusiasm for walking and exercise is immense (not to mention the same for learning,playing, interacting with us, life in general). Yet I am already now mainly restricting him to walks in fields and woods (all very squelchy and muddy at present) in the dark at night, when no-one else is around, by the light of my head torch and day time walks in limited and carefully selected places where I am constantly looking out for things Alfie cannot tolerate and where I have devised ample exit routes so as to enable Alfie avoid his demons (and which I suppose reduces his chances of him just getting used to them). The very notion of just casually going out for a pleasant walk without considerable logistical planning somehow seems ridiculous and impossible.

Looked online for guidance and see much of it is contradictory and seems useless. Such as seen advice to keep your dog on loose lead as other dog approaches, so as to avoid passing one’s tenseness to your dog, through the lead. It does not go on to explain what to do when your dog ignores that and you have to restrain your dog as it takes up the slack and lunges and plunges wildly s on the end of said lead.

We suppose bringing Alfie into our home could be said to be a mistake yet we care deeply for the troubled little lad, feel responsible for him and want to do our best for him. So less than two months in we have approached a dog behaviourist for help as we and Alfie cannot cope and sincerely hope we are doing the right thing and that some good can come of it. If RR or contributors think we are resorting to this too early, perhaps someone will suggest what we should be doing, instead? I am not maintaining RR’s view is wrong but we do not find it helpful during these worsening early days with Alfie. Perhaps some realism is required by us and that he may never be the completely ‘’no real issues’’ dog we thought we were taking on? We have had a JRT before (our ‘’forgetting’’ piece) but recognise we still have a lot to learn.

As I finish this, Alfie has sat up on my lap, placed his head affectionately on my shoulder. I can feel the warmth of his soft ear pressed against mine and he has given a little sigh. I put my arm round him and think in a few moments I am likely to have the pleasure of a good face lick. Alfie, lad, we will gladly do what we can for you. After my face lick I will take him for a short day time walk around the old football pitch area of the park, where it is usually fairly quiet and he may stand a chance of it being enjoyable and relatively demon free (just two non-avoidable bad encounters in say half an hour would be quite good going.)

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Post by Pegmilly » Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:29 pm

Firstly, well done for sticking with Alfie, asking for help, and not giving up at the first hurdle. I have one female jrt, and two male jrt crosses. Daisy is by far the most challenging. She is brilliant with us, her immediate family, but other than that is not a fan of people. She also used to chase joggers, cyclists, buses etc. I'm not an expert, I can only tell you how I turned it around. I spent hours, days, weeks, over the park, Daisy on a long line practicing her recall. Not only did this earn me some 'respect', it also wore her out mentally and physically. Once we had mastered that, we then went on to learn, 'stay close'. She had to, and still does, stays by my side, for her favourite treat (liver cake). We can now pass joggers, cyclists without issue. On lead, that's always been harder for her and me - so I fully understand your reluctance and dread at walking Alfie - but you've got to persevere but with baby steps. Ensure his harness fits correctly so you never have the worry of that coming off, and start your walk as you mean to go on - don't have the lead too slack or too tight at the start - it should be consistently the same length. Tackle one problem at a time - you can't expect him to get over all his quirks in one go. So, when you pass a bus, the lead should be the same length you started off with. If he lunges towards it, barking, going crazy, keep walking, but don't speed up. Talk to him, I used to say to Daisy, 'thank you for letting me know there's a bus'. I found by keeping it lighthearted, it stopped me from getting stressed. Once she was less sensitive to her triggers, ie a bus, I'd ask her to 'stay close', she knew she would get a treat. After a month or so her reaction was much less.
For now, I would stick to the fields, jrt's love fields better than anything! I'd practice recall, sit, stay, and just try and form a bond. Alfie may ignore you, he's a terrier, so you have to make sure you make this training as much fun as you possibly can and have a pocket full of his very favourite treat. Praise him like mad when he does something right, ignore the bad.
Daisy is still far from perfect - but she is easily managed. Personally, I wouldn't change a thing about her - she's been worth every second of her 'trying' times.
She still has the odd moment of 'hating' cars but I hardly ever walk my dogs in built up areas. It's not worth the stress to Daisy or to myself.
Please stop beating yourself up, you should do what works best for you and Alfie - no one is in your shoes and if you feel the need to use a behaviourist - that's what you should do (beware though - some do more harm than good).
I think just by recognising Alfie has issues, and asking for help, you should give yourself a pat on the back. Many would have given up on him in a heartbeat. He may never get over his 'triggers' but you'll probably find, you just learn how to deal with them better. Always remember Alfie's wonderful points, he's affectionate, good indoors, cuddle monster. He's probably a lot more scared of the outside world than you realise. Xxxx

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Post by Doglets » Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:35 pm

Hi there - we had EXACTLY the same problem with our Jack (JRxWhippet) who we rehomed from Terrier Rescue just over a year ago...........and now the problem has almost completely disappeared. I have met many other terrier owners who have had the same issues with 'prey/chase' obsessed terriers, and I've been told it is particularly common with JRs. What I did is : stuff my pockets with tiny bits of dried dog sausages (Waitrose) and every time I could see a motor bike/ bicycle/ scooter/ push-chair I would distract Jack with a treat, or several treats, kept eye contact with him the whole time, kept his attention, said his name over and over again, until the vehicle had passed. I have always kept him on a short lead and never avoided areas where we might see wheels, and over time he has become so used to getting a treat when I say his name on a walk that the obsession with wheels has become secondary to receiving a treat. I think he mostly doesn't notice wheels now, and I rarely have to give him a treat ; if a bike etc is on the horizon, and I can feel him getting tense I say his name, he looks at me, and the bike goes out of his mind. He also used to do it to people too, and the noise was awful : shrieking, barking, snarling etc. But he does none of that now. It did take several months to cure him of the habit, but I think that is what it is : a bad habit, that you can train out of him with patience and distraction. We have two other rescue terriers that have never behaved like that, and I always walk them all together, so now they are happier and like their walks much more that they don't have to put up with the terrible racket!GOOD LUCK ! :goodluck.gif:

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Post by Polpat » Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:47 am

Hello - firstly well done for recognising a problem and admitting you need help - fantastic! You are sticking with Alfie, love him to bits but feel out of your depth - we have all been there and thank you for not just giving up when the going gets tough. I think the comments above are all really valuable. I am NOT an expert but thought I would add my experience and methods which helped me and my dogs - all either terriers or high prey drive dogs.
At the moment I think Alfie probably picks up on the fact you dread taking him out and for you it is a wholly negative experience. He is therefore looking elsewhere for stimulation and fun and so his focus is on cars, joggers etc. I would therefore avoid these areas - take him to a quiet place think of these outings as time for you and Alfie to bond and have fun. It's easy to to walk with a dog on a lead and your mind elsewhere but turn this into an occasion for you to be entirely focused on Alfie and getting Alfie to focus on you. If he is toy orientated, take a 'high value' (to Alfie) toy - one that ONLY ever appears on your walks, or take plenty of small treats if he is food orientated. Two games which worked for one of my dogs (whose sole aim when we were out was to seek out things to chase and hunt) were these: Let Alfie run on a long line (you holding the other end) and throw a ball a short distance so Alfie runs to get the ball. Call him back to you (use one word and always use the same word eg "come"). If necessary wave your arms, jump up and down, smile and sound enthusiastic so coming back to you becomes a really rewarding experience. Don't worry about looking daft! You want Alfie to think you are the best thing in the world so make it worth his while to come to you. Us the long line if necessary but make sure when you say "come", that is what he does and reward him for it. Then you throw the ball again and repeat this over and over. If he won't give the ball back, have a 2nd ball at the ready and throw this one. Chances are he will drop the first and run for the 2nd one. Repeat repeat repeat. Then go on to the second game: Have a stash of small delicious treats on you. Throw one into the undergrowth at the edge of a path and say (really excitingly) "find it " and run towards it. Hopefully Alfie will also run to find the treat which he will eat - great reward. Throw the next treat a little forward to the other side of the path and again say "find it" in you most enthusiastic voice and repeat this over and over praising him every time he finds the treat. In this way, he will think YOU are the source of fun and reward and he will gradually stop looking elsewhere for his amusements. I did this with my dog every day for 6 months until we were both pretty exhausted but repeating these games and recall meant she stopped looking elsewhere to chase but became focused on me for her rewards. Think of your walks as time for you and Alfie to be connected and focused on each other and a positive experience for you both.
Don't expect big leaps in progress - it will be slow but gradually build it up and praise ALL his good behaviour. In the house, when he comes to sit by you, say "good sit Alfie" and stroke him, reward all his good behaviour in this way so over time he associates praise and affection with "wanted" behaviour and ignore the bad behaviour (jumping up, demanding attention etc) by turning away and ignoring him. You can also practise and re inforce recall in the home by saying "come" and rewarding him. You could even attach a light, puppy line in the home so when you say "come" you can make sure he does, and reward him each time.
As he becomes more focused on you it will become easier for you to ask him to sit when for instance a jogger comes past. Keep his eye on you until the "danger" has gone - use treats, or the valued toy or a ball - whatever he regards as most rewarding but keep his focus on you and not the jogger, car or whatever it is. Never let him get into a situation where he is "rewarded" for chasing but make sure you are always MORE rewarding. If you have to dance, sing make silly noises, wave, or anything else - just do it, if it gets his attention and then reward him! But to start with I would make it easy for him and you and stick to quiet areas - not roads or places with endless distractions. Think of it as "project Alfie" and set aside time every day to practise and reinforce his learning and then continue it in the home. It IS hard work but ultimately rewarding for you both and he will bond more with you and be less inclined to seek out stimulation from other sources.
JRTs are intelligent and need to be occupied so don't avoid walks and exercise - keeping him worn out mentally and physically will also help reduce unwanted behaviour. Another thing to check is his diet - don't feed a very high protein food or one with lots of additives as this can affect behaviour.
It sounds as though you have the desire and commitment to make this work so very best of luck and if a behaviourist can help well that is great - just make sure it is one who uses positive reinforcement and NOT punishment as this NEVER works. And don't ask too much of Alfie at once, so introduce new things one at a time and build up gradually as otherwise he may become overwhelmed and bewildered as to what you are asking of him.

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Post by daftdog » Fri Apr 01, 2016 1:05 am

Yes to all of the above! My Roxy went through a stage where she was a nightmare to walk and we had her from a puppy but all of a sudden for no reason we could see she just went through an awful stage of lunging at other dogs and reacting to cars etc, she even took to trying to bite my legs if she couldnt reach whatever she was after, so I did all of the above, and she also loves a squeaky ball so that would get her attention straight away when I squeaked it and every time she looked at me she had a treat, cheese works amazingly, gradually she turned into the well behaved dog on a walk she is now, she's no angel, she's still got her terrier traits but she is sooooo much better than she was.

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Post by ShazJ » Mon May 02, 2016 8:58 pm

Hi there. Hope you're making progress even if it is slow. JRTs, collies, and crosses are soon obsessed with chasing. Made mine sit every time a cyclist, jogger, horse n rider etc came by. Gradually worked. Still like to walk all of my current pack away from people if they're off lead (staffie, westie, JRTx) just so they can get a proper walk. They do learn. Eventually. :crossfingers.gif:

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Post by Dunmallard » Tue May 03, 2016 1:16 pm

First, I wish to sincerely thank the responders to my first post, for their generous encouragements, thoughts, own experiences and recommendations and suggestions about how to proceed. It’s difficult being confronted with a situation like this and the replies are all sincerely appreciated.

Secondly, I wish to apologise for the long overdue delay in posting this.My idea was to see the behavioural specialist, then with her and her colleagues help, and that of the RR responders, I really wanted to be able to write, after a little while, and say things were looking up and that Alfie was definitely on the way to being calmer, happier and better behaved when outside..

Alfie’s behaviorist pursues positive reinforcement measures, with thoughtfulness and kindness. The help is ongoing and always responsive.We have learnt a lot and are trying to do everything as advised. Indeed this has dominated much of our lives for the past 2-3 months. His main problems have been diagnosed as anxiety, fear and lack of self confidence. As to any real improvement, so far, I would have to say I am sometimes uncertain and if there is any, to question if it is because he is getting better or because I have learned how to better manage him. Sometimes I think he is improving then he has a setback and a bad react.

I have been getting a bit obsessed and frustrated about how amazingly frequently triggers come along at exactly the wrong moment. Obsessed enough to have worked out the probability of it happening. Statistically, over a period, it would seem to be about impossible, but it happens over and over again. .

The shorter hours of darkness bring greater outdoor activity of all sorts and more and more and more of Alfies’s triggers are encountered, which adds to the difficulties. This mornings early walk was intended to be quiet, peaceful and trigger free and it was, until two noisy and low flying Canada geese came close and Alfie had a bad react to them, soon followed by chain reacts to other things. No amount of route and exit planning can cater for things like that. But, we are keeping at it and trying and determined for better times for Alfie’ to try and make him see outside need not be so scary after all. Despite that he adores his walks, though they have to be selected very carefully. They are not all affected by reacts and many are enjoyable, if in an always looking over my shoulder kind of way. If I may, I would like to write again, later - and thanks again to all for your support.

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