When is a Good Boy not a Good Boy?

Here’s something that bugs me: Finding the right behaviour advice for your dog.

When you have a problem behaviour with your dog, perhaps you do things in the following order:

  • Google ‘how to stop your dog doing xyz’
  • Ask your dog-owning friends
  • Post on a Facebook group
  • Spend endless hours searching YouTube videos of professionals working miracles
  • Buy some books on Amazon you’ll never read

When you ‘should’ be doing the following:

  • Visit your vet to ensure the problem isn’t something internal manifesting itself as poor behaviour
  • Find a professional to help you with training

So here’s a confession. I’ve done all of the above.

My google history is 99% dog behaviour related at the moment, (and 1% red military blazers). I’m going to admit something I haven’t often admitted in public… Chuck, whilst being a wonderful companion and show dog, has behavioural problems. They’ve been there for years, but with a new dog in the house, it’s time to do something about it.

His issue: at certain times of the day, it seems like he will, for no reason, nip at your limbs in a fairly angry fashion, growling and tugging at whatever clothing you have on. Not visitors or strangers, just his family humans. Just us!

However… There’s no such thing as ‘no reason’. Every single time there is an identifiable trigger. Causality, like in the Matrix when the Merovingian states: ‘You see there is only one constant. One universal. It is the only real truth: Causality. Action, reaction. Cause and effect.

And this is sort of important. Triggers and trigger stacking are hugely important in relation to displayed behaviour. The more triggers/actions you layer up, the more of a reaction you’re going to get. But not all triggers are equal and reactions can vary on the scale of 1 to Idiot.

At the start, I’m desperate to know ‘why’, when actually I don’t need to dwell on why, I just need to know ‘what’.

When you focus on ‘why’, you can send yourself down a frustrating path. It’s much easier to logically analyse cause and effect and remove any emotion from it. Be more of a Merovingian.

So for Chuck, what is making him snap?

We kept a diary of his reactions and there are two trigger actions:

  1. Moving too closely around him after meal times
  2. Moving too quickly in his peripheral vision when he’s asleep and close to bedtime

We know that these things cause a certain reaction, we want to modify his behaviour to remove those reactions.

And this is where we loop back round to the start of this blog post. We:

  • Googled ‘how to stop your dog doing biting’
  • Asked our dog-owning friends
  • Posted on a Facebook group
  • Spent endless hours searching YouTube videos of professionals working miracles
  • Bought some books on Amazon which I actually read

And I learned a LOT. But nothing really sang out to me as ‘this is what you need to do!’ So…

We:

  • Visited the vet to ensure the problem isn’t something internal manifesting itself as poor behaviour. And it turns out Chuck needed some seasonal allergy relief.
  • Found a professional recommended by the Vet to help us with training. She visited our house for 3 hours at the start of August. Observed, took notes, asked questions… and we didn’t hear back for weeks. In fact, we still haven’t heard back.

The very expensive professional who visited us for 3 hours (and from whom we still haven’t seen any sort of report or procedural recommendation for behaviour modification) said nothing to me that I hadn’t already read or seen. What I did learn though, was that to many behaviourists, all dogs are just dogs. There’s no specific differentiation for types of dog and what they were bred for, what their genetic traits are and how this will affect things.

So what did I fundamentally learn from all of this?

That yes, all the information I need is already out there. The value of a behaviourist visit was third party affirmation that the processes and activities I am implementing are the right things to do. That’s a very expensive affirmation.

I’d like to think I am not your average pet dog owner. I’m a show breeder. I can tell you more about my breed and type than any behaviourist. I can tell you why a terrier will do something that a gundog wouldn’t and I can tell you what won’t work within these ‘groups’. I can tell you about physiology, psychology and all sorts of genetic concerns within breeding lines. I know why Chuck is predisposed to the behaviours he shows but more than this. I know his behaviour is my fault.

I didn’t put the effort into his training when he was young.

I didn’t listen to those who knew better when I was more green.

I didn’t look far enough ahead into the future of my fluffy little puppy to think about how his puppy interactions would impact his and our lives in the future.

I didn’t learn about the breed before I got him to really understand what Terrierism is. I wasn’t prepared.

Well I am prepared now. I have studied, I have considered, and I have my own behavioural plan to implement! Below is just one of the activities we are doing as part of my new training:

And we shall report back.

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It arrived!

Not all shows offer rosettes, when you qualify for Crufts, you can apply for a qualification rosette as you don’t automatically get given one just for qualifying.  It’s not necessary, but it’s a nice touch.  For many of us, it’s a big deal to even qualify.

So we got the rosette, it arrived in June, and I’m incredibly proud of it (and tried to eat it).

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Southern Counties Championship

After the disappointment of coming 3rd and 4th at Reading & District, to say mummy was nervous about appearing in the Southern Counties Champ. show would be an understatement.

It rubbed off on me slightly, I had uh… a squitty rear end… and that’s NOT fun when you’re at a show.  I do hold it in until I can find a spot of grass, but to mummy’s horror – the show rings were on grass.  Crispy grass too as it was quite warm.  I’ve never done a show walk on grass before and was skittering around because I don’t like crispy grass.

To try and remedy this, Mummy sped up, which made me bunny hop round the ring at times.  Not ‘appropriate’ apparently.

And I was up against Ben the Welsh again.  He beat me.  Again.  And he deserved to – he’s a much better structured Welsh than I.  I like him a lot, and his human offers us lots of handy tips and tricks.  They’re good eggs.

Despite all of this – I came second in PGD Welsh (behind Ben) and then 1st in Open Welsh.  So I got beautiful rosettes, mummy was pleased and I got lots of kisses from random humans.

Turns out, Southern Counties is a bigger affair than most shows i’ve been to in the past.  Lots of stalls to buy things (I got a new show lead), lots of visitors who come to see the dogs, and Dad saw a pal from work who breeds Rottweilers!

And my bottom behaved itself within a few hours.  Phew!

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Post-Qual. Reflections, Reading & District

So I qualified for Crufts. What next?  It was a nine whole months away.  Surely going to more shows would be pointless, right? If our aim this year was to get to Crufts, I’m already there.

Not so fast, everyone!

There are things I need to improve upon.  There is always time to learn.  And the best way to learn is to *do*, so Mummy took the decision to enter as many shows between now and next March as possible, to give me practice, to learn by doing.

Knowing that my second championship show was early June, we found a local(ish) Open Show a few days before Southern Counties to give me some practice.  The Reading & District Open Show.  There was no Welsh Terrier class (there rarely ever is in county open shows) so I entered AVNSC (Any Variety Not Separately Classified) Postgraduate and Open.

Funnily enough, it appeared that others had the same idea – to use this Open show as a test for Southern Counties two days later (same venue, you see).  There was another Welsh! We’ve never ever come up against another Welsh Terrier in a local AVNSC class.

Ben the Welsh beat me twice, but neither of us won the class – I came 3rd and 4th.  Disappointing, but a good lesson – I’ve never really come anything less than 2nd before!  A dose of reality and a warning for the Championship show at the weekend….

WT Association Champ. Show

So, being incredibly unprepared (but incredibly well groomed), off we went to Wales for the WTA Championship Show.  It’s a breed championship, so only WTs.

Now, I only entered one class.  Postgraduate Dog.  This was because in previous shows, mummy learned that if you enter more than one class, win one but get beaten in another, you are no longer an “unbeaten dog”.  Only unbeaten dogs can progress to Best Dog, Best of Breed etc etc.  So we decided to just enter one class, so if I won, I wouldn’t then be beaten in another.

There were four entries in my class.  All younger than me, and two of whom were far better qualified already.  One was a ShCM, for example.

We saw lots of friends from the WT Club show, and lots of other exhibitors came up to offer us tips and assistance to ‘get it right’.  Mummy had soft shoes, tweed in a complementary colour.  I had my new grooming trolley…

Here I am in the ring…

I came second in my class.  So that meant I didn’t qualify through to Best Dog.  I came second in my first ever championship class.  Out of four! Now, initially, mummy was a little disappointed, this was my only class entered, so coming second meant I was eliminated unless the winner of PGD went on to Best of Breed and I could then come back in to challenge for Best Dog.

Whilst Mummy was sulking, one of our friends sidled up to Daddy (Photographer & Chauffeur in Chief) and said how pleased we must be for qualifying for Crufts!

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Here we are – the 1st and 2nd in PGD.  Ben (who came first) is a cracking dog and his dad John is one of the most helpful exhibitors we’ve met!

SO – coming second in a breed class qualifies you for Crufts – if only we had actually read the qualification criteria in my earlier blog post.  We were actually shocked.  This was our fourth ever show?!