Helen Taylor, BSc(hons) Zoology, ADipCBM
Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB)
Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)

Registered Practitioner (Clinical Animal Behaviourist) with the Animal Behaviour
and Training Council (ABTC)

Tel: 07951 985193 Email: enquiries@helentaylordorset.co.uk

Vet-recommended, qualified and certified animal behaviourist taking referrals for all dog behaviour problems in Dorset, South Somerset, South Wiltshire and West Hampshire

..Helping your best friend
to be even better...


This is a new feature, and currently one has one entry - Zander's story. If you would like to tell your dog's story, or would like your case to be used as a case study to help train other behaviourists (no direct involvement is needed), please contact us.

Sasha and Zanders' story

Zander was born in a foster home, within a litter of 12 puppies. That litter was his mum's second litter within a short period of time. She was originally found in a ditch, with a damaged leg and already pregnant with her first litter. She was taken to a pound, where I think she had the first litter, and then due to a Pound 'reshuffle' she was accidentally put in with an entire dog. A presumed collie of some sort. This led to her second pregnancy and she was moved into the rescue, and the foster home, that we adopted Zander from. Zander was raised in the foster home by a lovely lady until we took him on at 11 weeks.

I was 18 when I adopted Zander, and 20 when we had the first meeting with Helen. Zander was around 18 months there about at that first meeting, and he is now 2. We both live at home with my Mum and I work part time in the shop down the road.

When you first visited it was due to Zander developing a fear or a starting of one, around people (particularly men) who tried to approach him. He would hunch down, tuck his tail up and back away from the person. We had noticed that he had become a bit 'wary' of some people he didn't know but it came into its full light when we tried to take him to the vet due to a suspected UTI, we had never seen him so distressed, howling, tucked up tail, trying to hide from the vet.

We overcame this very slowly by letting him approach selected 'stooge' people, who had been told to completely ignore him so he could approach at his own pace and sniff them without fear of them trying to touch him. Whenever he remained calm around them he would be told 'Good' (mark word) and treated. We did have some difficulty at first due to people seeming to think (with good intentions) that they'd be the 'one' that wouldn't frighten Zander and it did teach me to be more assertive with people around my dog. Now we have gotten to the point when Zander will almost mug them for attention now.

We also did random visiting of the vets and sitting in the waiting room without being seen and marking and treating for calm while in there. At first we would just stand in the car park and treat while calm, then slowly moving towards the door. Then we'd get to the stage where we'd stand in the doorway and maybe greet the receptionist.

Another fear of Zander's was getting in and out of the car. Again we had to take very small steps with it as he wouldn't even walk near it. We'd stand by it and I'd treat him for looking at calmly and maybe take a step towards it. When he was happily going towards it we'd open the door and practice going towards it and then onto maybe feeding him a meal in there or a spoonful of peanut butter while in the car.

With other dogs Zander had always found other dogs very very interesting, to the point of jumping around at the end of the lead because he HAD to go over to them. We used the same sort of technique as with the fear of people, marking and treating when calm (and starting from a distance) and he didn't go and meet them in an attempt to hopefully make them uninteresting to him. We used 'stooges' in the form of calm dogs we knew and used your dogs too. As time went on he started to bark occasionally and lunge at dogs he didn't know, so we went back to the beginning and treated for calm at a distance. I started to find that using 'find it' was useful when he saw other dogs or ones that needed to go past us useful as I could make him hunt for treats while they went by. I am also finding that if he does start reacting to them I can distract him away and for him to keep moving. We are still working on his reactions to other dogs. One's he knows and has been slowly introduced too he is fine with, even a bit overexcited when he see's them.

His recall was difficult to train, especially as the only secure field in ort town now has cattle in and the local 'park' is on-lead only.

We combated this by hiring out a local indoor riding school for an hour every now and then as a completely secure area that Zander can sprint around in and we can safely practice recalls in.

When you first arrived Zander was 'ok' with the cats but he was obnoxious with them and would try and give chase. After lots of keeping him on lead and doing tricks around the cats he slowly became less interested in them. If particularly over-stimulated he will still try to chase them and he will also try to in the garden which we are still working on.
This issue became much more important when in the Summer, my mum found an abandoned 7 week old kitten at the side of the road in a box. When we first had Zander, the cats were already adults, so a tiny vulnerable kitten around meant it was especially important he was desensitised to her. We did this by having him look at her calmly lead while she was in her crate and then slowly built it up. Now out of all the cats, Zander and Harry get on the best!

Things we are still working on:

Zander reacting negatively to other dogs.

"Watch me" Went through a stage where Zander would glance ahead before watching, meaning seeing whatever we were using as 'distraction'. So we have started from scratch with that by changing the word and building it up slowly.

Important/Useful things to remember:

Reading up on dog body language can be really helpful in seeing how your dog 'feels' about something.

Reading up on dog behaviour in general is interesting too such as books like "The culture clash" "Clever dog" and "In defence of dogs".

Keeping an eye on stress. If a walk has been particularly stressful for either me or Zander, we may skip the next one and just do some tricks or mental stimulation toys, stress on top of stress will not help at all.

http://reactivechampion.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-stress-bathtub.html (explains the stress bathtub thing better then I can!)

Remaining under threshold is really important. I'd rather keep Zander calm at a distance and then walk away then push it more and risk him reacting badly.

Never run out of treats. (Most coat pockets are filled up with various kibbles, cheese, ham bits here)

And lastly a picture:

Harry with Zander

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©Helen Taylor 2009

Home visits for behavioural problems available in and around the following areas: Blandford Forum, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Crewkerne, Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Martock, Mere, Poole, Ringwood, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, Warminster, Weymouth, Wilton, Wimborne, Yeovil.