I will start with the ‘boring’ but important bit. We finally got a dog trainer in to see Zephyr. We’ve used her before for Echo when we first moved house. She is a very good trainer, lovely person and uses positive reinforcement mixed with strict rules.
Firstly, It was nice to have someone in the house that wasn’t afraid to tell the dogs off. Both my dogs are obsessed with visitors so they get a bit too close and can be generally quite rude. We decided it was best to have Zephyr out on his own so that we could contain the madness. He was a little unsure about someone else giving him rules but he did do as he was told. We have the suggestion that if we have guests in the house to have one dog out at a time and use leads until they calm down. Since Zeph can be vary especially around men these days (i.e my dad and uncle – both a little nervous around big dogs, so a bad combination). If we put Zeph on a lead, I’ve to stand on the lead which basically forces Zeph to lie down, and when he does I have to say the phrase ‘settle down’. Eventually I should be able to say settle down and he should go and lie down. With Zeph on the lead as well I can put him on one side of me away from guests that way he isn’t going into protect mode.
Secondly, we went for a walk. We are walking him on his halti and collar but have his harness on as an extra ‘hold’ if things do get out of hand. If I see a dog and he’s being really good it’s all positive reinforcement, and calm with the aim of getting closer to dogs in a safe manner. If he starts to focus on a dog, I have to have one end of the lead in one hand and the other in the other hand, and if he is getting irate I’ve to give a quick tug downward with the end of the lead on the halti, with a sharp low “Leave it!”. If he then ‘leaves it’ and walks by or away we go back to positive reinforcement with sausages and a ‘good boy’. If he escalates, and goes to lunge at a dog, I have to hold him and really growl a phrase like “don’t you dare”. Something that can be growled and comes out short and sharp. The aim is to bring his attention back to me. It’s made a difference so far, I think me just taking more charge of things is really the help. I’ve gotten some of my confidence back but to be honest I’ve still not really pushed it yet. Keeping it slow. Walking the dogs separately which means I can focus on training and it means Echo can get a good run off lead without me being dragged along by Zephyr. It has also really improved Zephyr’s ‘heel’. We are taking it slowly. I don’t want to push him to be too close to dogs too soon if it means going backwards again.
Thirdly, dogs are not allowed to follow me around the house. I am putting my foot down with Zephyr wanting to chase everything. I am being a lot stricter, in fact we had a fight over a bone last night, which resulted in Zephyr growling at me because I got too close and me taking the bone off him and him being sent to bed. The stricter rules seem to have benefited both dogs and they actually seem more settled again.
Anyway, I’ll keep you updated. But so far, I have got Zephyrs attention: