OMG, I think this programme from Channel 5 may have just saved my sanity!
If you haven’t seen it yet, and you have dogs who don’t behave well, you have to watch it.
Graeme Hall is one of the UK’s top behaviourists and dog trainers. Each week, he helps dog owners sort out their dogs annoying or potentially dangerous behaviours.
Being the owner of 2 Border Collies, with 1 in particular having a list of bad behaviours, I was interested to watch it. As with many of the previous series about changing dog behaviours, I was a little skeptical, to say the least!
We had Fido at 16 weeks old, from his previous owner who could no longer keep him. She lived in a first floor flat, which was quite small with 2 young children under 5. If anyone knows Border Collies, they are extremely energetic and need a lot of exercise. They are also very clever.
The minute I saw Fido and his living environment, I knew we had to take him home.
I already had a dog, a Collie crossed with a retriever. The vet had recommended a puppy to help keep him active. I wanted a rescue dog, as I had always had rescue dogs, but we had had a bad experience when a previous dog we had hoped to home, had attacked my dog. Fido seemed like the perfect solution. He wasn’t technically rescued, but he did need rehoming!
From the minute we brought him home, he showed signs of trying to be the dominant male. He constantly tried to attack my older dog. Ember was such an amazing dog. He never turned on Fido. He was so tolerant and patient!
He came from a dogs home himself and was very traumatised. It took a lot of hard work and commitment to get him to the dog he was, so I wasn’t a stranger to working with dogs.
Even toilet training Fido was a nightmare. I don’t think I slept for the first 6 months, putting him out in the night to do his business. He had so many accidents. Even though it was cold or wet (it was in January), I never gave in. Wrapped in layers, I would stay in the garden until he did his business. I praised him like they tell you to, but it still took forever. I think a lot of this was due to the fact that back in the flat he didn’t have a garden. As he wasn’t vaccinated until a week or so before you took him, he wouldn’t have been able to go out, so his toilet was the flat and puppy pads!
We were hoping Ember would help us train Fido. Sadly, Ember passed away suddenly 6 months later.
Even as the only dog in the house, Fido continued to be a difficult dog, but I wasn’t going to give up on him. With us, he was such a loving dog, he still is. He is very needy and insecure, needed constant reassurance.
He never had a bed in his previous home. He slept with his owner. This was a hard habit to break, but again we continuously made him sleep in his own bed. Even now, he will try and get back onto the bed if we don’t tell him to get off!
As he got older, the problems seem to grow:-
Chasing cars, bikes, joggers etc on his walks
Barking at any noise such as Microwave, planes etc
Getting stressed if he hears the door bell, bangs etc to the point he loses it (behavioural wise)
Trying to attack other dogs
Not allowing anyone in or out of the house
It got so bad, I even thought of giving him up, although I am not sure I would have gone ahead with it.
We thought that maybe a companion might help him. We did some research and took advice. It was recommended that we look at females to help with his male dominance issue.
We tried rescue dogs, but he just attacked them. It seemed hopeless. We then decided that maybe a puppy that he could mold might be the best answer! So almost 2 years after we got him, we got little Lola, also a Border Collie. This time though, we picked her direct from her breeder.
Lola was a completely different dog. She was toilet trained in 2 weeks. Coming from a litter of 11 though she wanted to play with Fido. He didn’t seem to feel the same way back!She would constantly try and get his attention, which would end up with him going for her.
In the first couple of months I never left them on their own together. I wanted to make sure that I was there to protect Lola from him. When I mentioned it to the kennels, they advised me to stop intervening! Lola had to learn when to back off! So after a short weekend in kennels I picked up a happy Lola with a cut on her face!
I was absolutely gutted, but they were right! She had to learn boundaries! After that, things settled between them. Now they play happily together, if he doesn’t want to play she knows it, and walks away!
The other problems were not easy to sort! I would try and walk both dogs on my own. Getting out the house was stressful as Fido would fight with Lola to get out first. He would then try and chase every car that past us or attack any dogs we saw. By the time I got home I would be so stressed out, I was almost in tears, and it wasn’t even 6 am! I was beginning to dislike him!
As a last resort we called in a dog behaviourist! I could no longer cope with the embarrassment or shame of his behaviour! We were not avoiding people when we were out for walks. Letting Fido off in a field to run around wasn’t an option anymore. Worse still, Lola was learning these bad behaviours from him too!
The behaviourist pointed out that those 8 weeks before we had him were crucial for puppies, and if it wasn’t a good experience it could effect him forever.
One thing that I noticed with Lola was that when she wanted quiet time, she would go into her puppy playpen or under the chaise lounge. Fido never had that in his previous home. He would have had 2 active toddlers running around with him, in a very small space!
I suddenly realised this wasn’t his fault, so vowed I would stick with him! He deserved that.
That was almost 2 years ago!
I had researched different methods on the internet, read books and watched tv programmes. None of them really helped me.
Then the lady who looks after the dogs for me in the day told me of this programme. I’d seen Graeme interviewed on This Morning. I even tried looking for the programme on the tv, but was looking under ‘The Dog Father’. I now had the name and could series link it!
Every night I watched an episode! It was worth trying! What had we to lose?
I decided to break down all Fido’s issues and work on them one at a time.
The first one was the problem of anyone entering or leaving the house, including us! He barks and lunges at the door! To be honest, sometimes he scared me, so god knows what anyone else thought!
We had previously tried everything to no avail! We even had a child gate up in the hall to give us space between him and the front door to leave without him near us! Fido hates metal, so wouldn’t cross it! Then I saw Graeme deal with a similar issue.
The trick was to give the dog a line not to cross! Graeme only had 1 dog to deal with in the programme, whereas we had 2! I decided I needed to give them both their own lines ! That way Lola wouldn’t get in Fido’s way if he kicked off!
Fido’s line was the strip between the kitchen and hall. Lola the step.
My hubby and I both spent a couple of hours getting Fido to stay behind the line. Lola got it straight away. Fido took many attempts. My steps on my Fitbit certainly increased that day!
Every time he moved we put him back! Slowly I got nearer and nearer to the front door! And then it happened. I actually walked out of the house and Fido didn’t bark or kick off!
OMG I could have cried.
We then both did it together! It was working. With lots of praise and treats, leaving the house was no longer stressful.
Now, I’ve talked about Fido’s bad points but he does have some good ones too! One is that he won’t touch food or treats until you tell him too.
I started to leave a treat at his feet, not to be eaten until we left the house! Bingo it worked!
The true test was when our dog sitter tried it and got the same results! We are over the moon.
I am now looking at other episodes to see how we can tackle some of the other issues. Fido barking at any noises is a real problem, so I am trying to work on that now too.
The door bell is a real problem and I think that will be much harder for us to solve.
Lola isn’t exempt from this either! She has learnt to bark at anyone walking past the house. Graeme also dealt with that on one of his episodes, so I am trying to put that into practice!
We have a long way to go, and are only really working on things inside the house right now. It would be good if we could sort out Fido’s aggression with other dogs. Lola loves playing with other dogs, and by not being able to take them out over fields, I fear she is losing out. They both would love the extra exercise if we could solve it!
They same Rome wasn’t built in a day! I can’t believe what a difference it has made so far. Life is definitely less stressful when we leave the house. We will keep up with it. This programme has really made a difference to us.
So Graeme – thank you ! Oh, and if you need a dog for your next series you are welcome to sort Fido out in respect of his alpha male problem and trying to attack every dog he passes !!
So if like me you want help training your dog, check out this series on Channel 5.