I pulled up beside the house, and hopped out to be greeted by a chorus of barking – a big deep woof from the rangy blue cattle dog, ad a more high pitched, frantically excited spatter from the little miniature foxie. Their mum gave me a cheery wave from the door, and invited me inside. Before long we were settled in the undercover area at the back of the house, and I was being jumped all over. It only took a moment to get the little fellow to go and sit on his bed, but the big girl was a bit more problematic. She was like a big wriggly rash! After a little while of talking stern ‘dog’ with her, she got the message and settled out a little.
“What’s up then?” I asked.
“Well- you know she had the incontinece problem, and kept waking up in a puddle?’ she asked (I nodded). “I tapered the medication back to a very low level, and even stopped using it alltogether, and she was fine, but then a few months ago she started waking up in a puddle again – and then the first thing she does is wag her tail, and sprays it all over the place! So I gave her the full dose again, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”
“Are you giving it twice daily?” I asked.
“No, only once a day…”
“With that medicine, you really have to give it twice daily, so I’d suggest that you try that and see what happens.” I was examining her as I chatted, and she was in good health.” She seems fine a good weight, though she wouldn’t want to lose any more, and maybe put a pound on. And tell me – Is her behaviour, this clingy, in your face sort of thing a problem for you?”
“Well, it is, to be honest,” she said, ” and she’s awful to walk, she pulls like anything – especially if there’s another dog, when she get’s super protective and aggressive. And as soon as we give the little fellow any attention, she’s right in our faces. Not to mention how she hassles our guests when they visit!”
“I’m going to show you a simple, but very powerful training trick I use a lot – it’s called outing. Watch me while I work with her a little…”
I picked up a strong, direct eye contact with her, raised a finger, and said ‘Out’ very firmly. She immediately responded, moving away, but I could see that she was still ‘pushing’ to come back into my space, so I kept firm pressure on her from my end, not allowing her to push back into my space at all.
“You see what I’m doing?” I asked. She nodded, watching carefully. “So the key to this is that I keep pushing her out of my personal space until she stops trying to push back in, until she gives up on trying to get closer to me. That’s the most important thing to do. I have very strong eye contact, while using one raised finger as a visual command. You can see she’s still trying to push back in, and now, she’s suddenly stopped, sat down, and relaxed her body language – so now I’m going to invite her in.”
I relaxed my body language, broke eye contact and called her over, gave her a pat. Then I repeated the whole process again – this time it was much quicker and easier for us both. The little dog had gone and sat on his bed, but I’d done puppy training with him, so he’d learned this very young.
“You’ll want to do this regularly for the next week – outing her, and him both at the same time, and then inviting one of your dogs in for some attention while keeping the other one out, or on their bed, until they stop pushing to come in, and then putting them both out, and then inviting the other in on their own. Do you think you’ve got it?”
“Yes – I can see a difference in her already! What about the pulling on the lead?”
“I don’t have time to do that today, but I can come back next week and do some training with that, work with her on the lead and then have you work with her a bit – would that suit?”
“That would be great,” she said.
I packed up and crunched off up the gravel driveway. My favourite sort of visit, helping people and dogs live together more happily.