Common Behavioural Questions


I asked Elaine Barters son Oli to give us some tips into dealing with certain behaviors for dogs in general .



1 – Pulling on a lead to get to other dogs:
Half the battle in combating pulling is to make sure you are using the correct training aides for the job in the first place; a strong lead (leather) and half-check/martingale collar combination is always a great place to start, especially if physical strength isn’t a ‘strong-point’. Secondly, you need to control your dogs state of mind so when it is being walked on-lead it is always calm and relaxed, no matter what the on-coming situation might be (e.g. approaching dog). Techniques for this are much easier shown than explained!

2 – Recall training:
There are 2 sides to achieving good recall; firstly your dog has to believe you are more interesting than all its surroundings and other stimuli, and secondly, your dog has to have respect for your authority and commands. Positive reinforcement training is the way forward – find out what really motivates your dog and use it to your advantage. Then comes lots of practice and lots of patience! Start off by either using a long line e.g. a horse lunge line or even 2 tied together, or by practicing in an enclosed and secure space.

3 & 4 – Chasing / legging down other dogs, and stock training:
Deerhounds are instinctive chasers, specifically being bred to have a prey drive response toward movement from other animals. This is obviously a very hard habit to break, and like with lead walking and recall training, you have to be able to control your dog’s energy/excitement when it sees other dogs. The main trick is to nip it in the bud before your dog works itself up into a high intensity state of mind – prevention is better than cure! This isn’t easy if the dog is already 40 yards away, and once the dog has started ‘the chase’ its game over – you won’t be able to break the fixation without the use of a training aide like a spray/vibration collar, used to redirect the dog’s attention back to you, and even then, if the dog is in a really high intensity frame of mind there are no guarantees even that will work. Using training aides like these is best shown, so you can ensure you are using them properly and to best effect.

5 – House training:
House training (like any other training) revolves around consistency, repetition, and patience. A puppy pad indoors is the best place to start. Once the puppy knows the puppy pad is where it has to ‘go’, gradually move the puppy pad towards the back door (for example), and then outdoors, until it realises it has to go outside. If you catch the dog going indoors, immediately put it outside for a few minutes. If you come home to a mess there is no point in putting the dog outdoors as the likelihood is the crime was committed too long ago, therefore the dog will not realise it is being put outdoors because of the fact that it isn’t allowed to relieve itself indoors!

6 – Grabbing hands/arms/nipping:
Nipping and jumping up is usually excitement based or attention seeking. The best way to combat this behaviour is to; A) Don’t play up to it and raise the energy level even further, stay calm and relaxed to impress that state of mind on the dog. B) Ignore the behaviour and the dog to see if it stops within a short period – just ‘keep calm and carry on’ with your walk. C) If the nipping and/or jumping continues, protect your personal space by pushing the dog down in a firm and assertive manner, and use a command such as ‘down’ in a stern voice to reinforce the action. Be consistent and patient, repeating the process until the dog gets the message.

7 – Growling over food:
Food aggression is hard to tackle and the best approach will depend on the dog’s personality, and the underlying reason for the food aggression. With any aggression issues you should ask a behaviourist to conduct an assessment and consultation in order to devise a safe plan for you to work with the issue, as obviously there is the potential for you to get hurt if you do something wrong. In the mean time, and in the interest of safety, our suggestion is to prepare the dog’s food, then hold the food bowl by your side in front of the dog, get the dog to sit and wait until it gives you solid eye contact (rather than fixate on the food bowl), then give the dog its food and walk away. Leave the dog alone without contact for 30 minutes after finishing its food.

8 – Eating faeces (coprophagia):
Coprophagia can often be diet related, but can also just become a habit. Dogs sometimes eat faeces if they are lacking certain nutrition in their diet, so in the first instance we would recommend ensuring the dog has a well balanced, good quality diet. Generally speaking, as with most things in life, when it comes to dog food you get what you pay for! Dogs as carnivores (primarily) need a good amount of protein and fat in their diet, but if they get a lot of exercise quick release energy can be found in the form of carbohydrates such as rice or pasta, which dogs do have the ability to digest. Of course vitamins and minerals (as mainly found in fruit and veg) are also an important part of a balanced diet. Also, if anything at least you can rule diet out as a reason for the coprophragia if your dog benefits from good nutrition!
If the issue is habitual, then the best technique to ‘break the habit’ and deter the dog really depends on what your dog responds to most effectively, as every dog is different. The basic principle, however, is to intercept and prevent the behaviour before it occurs by redirecting the dog’s attention away from the faeces. Over time with patience and consistency, the habit should fade away as the habit chain is slowly being broken, thus breaking the bad habit! Training aides such as pet correctors and long-lines can be used to good effect when working with this issue, especially in the primary stages of the dog’s behavioural correction programme.

9 – Barking unnecessarily:
With issues like unwanted barking, you have to find what your dog responds to in order to break its attention from whatever it is doing through trial and error. What works for one dog may not work for another. Like above, pet correctors can be very effective, as can water spray or a tin with stones in being shaken. The general idea is that if you get the timing right by performing the correction early (not waiting until the dog has already been barking or 5 minutes!), the dog will start to associate its behaviour (the unwanted barking) with an undesirable reaction/consequence from you, and therefore the dog will stop the behaviour. Of course you must continue with corrections if the dog continues to bark, and you must also follow the action through with a body language and energy to reinforce the fact you do not want that behaviour, though you also have to remain in a clam state yourself so the energy levels stay low and you do not work your dog up any more by adding to its high energy.

10 – How to crate train:
Some dogs take to crates very quickly, while others aren’t so keen. In our experience the best way to crate train a dog is to firstly make the crate comforting and inviting – lots of blankets and covered with a blanket to make it like a ‘den’ for your dog. Maybe even add an item of your own clothing so the crate smells of you.
Leave the crate door open so your dog can go in and out as it pleases, and place some treats in the crate to encourage the dog to use the crate out of its own free will. When the dog finds the treat this will help it to associate going into the crate with a positive experience.
After a while, when your dog goes into the crate off its own accord, shut the door behind it and carry on what you were doing as normal. Leave the dog shut in for only a short period but if the dog whines or tries to get out, ignore the behaviour and walk away. If you let the dog out when it is whining or scratching etc. then the dog will soon learn that if it ‘creates’ whenever it doesn’t want to be shut away, it will get what it wants!
Build on the length of time you leave the dog shut in the crate over a period of perhaps a week or 2 until the dog is completely comfortable being left shut in it.

11 – Lead aggression:

As with any form of aggression, we suggest you ask a behaviourist to assess your dog and show you firstly how to handle the situation when it acts aggressively, to reduce the change of you or someone/something else getting hurt, and secondly to determine which corrective techniques your dog responds to best.
The basic principles, however, are as follows; with lead aggression the timing of your corrections is really important, however we find that the very most important factor influencing your dog’s response to an oncoming situation is you! Your own mindset, energy and control of the situation makes all the difference. If you are feeling at all negative about the situation yourself, whether it be frustration, anxiety, tension etc. your dog will feed off your own negative energy and play up far worse than if you remain in a calm, relaxed and positive mind-frame.
When it comes to timing the corrections, you must be able to read your dog’s body language and recognise the smallest signs of a change in your dog’s mindset, so you can pounce on it immediately to snap your dog out of its negative view of the situation, and redirect its attention away from the stimulus causing a reaction and back to you so you can follow through with your command/discipline.
You must also be consistent and patient, and you must constantly subject the dog to the stimulus causing an unwanted reaction in order to correct the behaviour. No problems were ever solved by avoiding them!