Another bitey Lab

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by Chocmum, Jul 14, 2019.

  1. Chocmum

    Chocmum Registered Users

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    I have a 5 month yellow (Fox Red) male, I chose a different colour following the loss of my beautiful chocolate - Mr Pickles. From the day I bought this fella home he has been biting like crazy, far worse than I think my other pups did. He even attacks from behind, if I turn away to escape he justs bites my back, legs, head or whatever. His moods are a bit schizophrenic, happy and wanting cuddles but in the blink of an eye frenzied biting, my arms are covered in bruises, bites and scratches where he lashes out with his paws. My elderly mother (90yrs) shares my homes and she is terrified of him, this is a Lady who has spent most of her life living with dogs.
    I think he sees biting as a game but no one will come to my house as they just get attacked, if I put him in the crate, garden or another room he just barks/screams the house down. The vet has now prescribed Fluoxetine and he is being seen by a behaviourist who described him as the most anxious dog she has ever seen, I have no idea why he is so anxious. He will just go into a biting frenzy attacking anyone and everyone, I have resorted to very early or late walks as he cannot be trusted and I don't want to use a muzzle. I have to train this fella but am stumped. He will bark or whine non stop which having a newborn baby next door is not going down well.
    Weight gain is slow despite increasing his food - Wellness Core puppy food, vet has checked him over and done blood tests at my request, poop normally. Paws to top of head 25 inches and weight 19kg, most adult teeth through.
    He was taught to sit before I bought him home and since then come, down, wait, drop, touch and a few more (not 100% yet), I now no longer give a treat until all 4 paws on ground, he eats as expected and I can put my hand in his bowl and feed him by hand no problem. Yet, he will not let me put his harness on without a fight. My son having been attacked quite badly believes that the dog just doesn't like people as he is great with other dogs.
    I have had a number of dogs and all I have ever done is basic training at home and then obedience or Good Citizenship classes. I feel really out of my depth and scared he might harm someone seriously if I don't sort this out. Any suggestions welcomed please.
     
  2. Chocmum

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    Forgot to add. More often than not, if indoors and he goes crazy, he will then hump his bed. he doesn't hump anything other than his bed,
     
  3. LoopyLuna

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    Hi @Chocmum - what a gorgeous boy he is, and I'm sorry that you're having such a difficult time at the moment. It sounds really challenging for you and your family. I'm replying because Mr Pickles sounds exactly the same as Luna at that age - 3-5 months was her most intense behaviour and she did all of the things you've listed in your post. I'm no expert in these things (as you'll know from my posts :)) so your behaviourist is going to be your best guide, and perhaps your vet to discuss either Zylkene or medication for the anxiety. What sorts of things did your behaviourist suggest after they identified that he was displaying anxious behaviour?

    A few things that helped for us (although they may not be appropriate for your situation, so maybe chat them through with your behaviourist first:(

    • Learn about trigger stacking - if you type it into Google then you'll get some helpful literature about it. Essentially it's about how stress (and that can be excitement and uncertainty, not necessarily bad stress) builds up and creates a cumulative effect that then culminates in behaviours we don't like.
    • For Luna, her triggers stacked quickly and more easily than other dogs, and her capacity for managing those feelings was perhaps less developed than other dogs, so the combination of those things resulted in very frequent and excessive behaviour.
    • Knowing those things, we started observing what those triggers were and it tended to be incredibly subtle things - eye contact, petting, going outdoors, hoovering, too much praise, a raised voice, a sound outside, another dog barking. Often these were "non events" in our mind, but they were building in her mind. If you then introduced more of an event (a guest coming over, meeting a dog on a walk, a motorbike driving past loudly) and they were definitely far too overwhelming. They'd fill up her stress bucket immediately.
    • So, knowing all this we kept stimulus to a minimum. We never petted her (which sounds awful, but it really helped and we've slowly built it up so she's now more comfortable). She'd often come and sit on our feet when she wanted to be close, so we'd say "good girl" gently and leave it at that. We never did anything too quickly or loudly in the house, my stepdaughter was never allowed to dance or run near her, we kept walks short and gave lots of reassurances when out. We started to become tuned in to sounds and sights we'd never have noticed before, so we could anticipate some of the trigger stacking.
    • A really helpful thing for us was to reward calm behaviours like you're doing with the "feet on the floor" rewarding, but more frequently and more focusing on when they genuinely seem to be "feeling" calm. Whenever you're observing behaviour that's really calm - falling asleep, just chilling out on a mat, then mark it with a soft "yes" and drop a few treats by him.
    • For the biting, we found that there was all sorts of different bites happening - "I'm excited bite", "I'm not happy about that bite", "I'd like some attention bite", and the "I'm-really-frustrated-so-I'm-just-going-to bite bite". Either way, think about the triggers that are happening at the time and minimise the opportunities for him to do it. Restrict his access in the house - especially restrict access from your elderly mother. Don't play with him unless he's calm and if he bites, always have a large toy that you can shove in his mouth when you are interacting with him. Leave the room if he's leaping and biting (get yourself some door gates and use them to your advantage). Wear long sleeves and trousers, keep your hair tied up and move around really slowly.
    • Putting her harness on was a bloody nightmare, so I feel your pain. I remember one morning being bitten so much by her that I just threw the harness across the room, sat on the floor and sobbed my heart out (I was thoroughly and emotionally exhausted by it all by that point). She then proceeded to jump all over me so my outburst solved nothing at all :). What we did with the harness was change it to a Perfect Fit harness which clipped around her rather than going over her head, and we built it up really slowly. There's a great video by Chirag Patel that's worth a watch if you have chance - . He might be associating the harness with going out on walks which are a bit scary, or he might just be a bit unsure of being touched around his tummy and ribs - whatever it is, he's trying to tell you he's not comfortable.
    Anyway, that's probably quite enough (I'm really terrible at being able to do a short post), but chat to your behaviourist about it and get a plan of action so you can start to feel some progress. If he's anything like Luna, then progress will be slow but it will be there. Don't get too hung up on the word "anxiety" - it's helpful to know that he's feeling overwhelmed by situations but it doesn't mean all your training efforts will be futile. You'll just need to structure training differently for the time being, but other than that he's still just a 5 month old trying to navigate his environment, and he just needs a helping hand (even if he will bite it :))

    Good luck and let us know how you're getting on and what the behaviourist suggests for you (because I might pinch some of those ideas :))
     
  4. Jo Laurens

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    Chocmum, With a newborn baby to care for, and a 90 year old mother, in the same household, taking on a puppy is a very tall order and challenge for anyone. It's certainly not something I'd do - no matter how easy the puppy was - and I'm a dog trainer and behaviourist!!

    Raising a puppy IS like having a baby. The only difference is that it is over quicker, because dogs mature faster than children. But it takes the exact same amount of time, effort, and energy to raise a puppy WELL AND OPTIMALLY and to meet his needs, as it does to have a baby. Yet you have both newborn baby and puppy, at the same time.

    It is rare that, when parental time is challenged, the baby or the other family members lose out for the sake of the puppy. Instead, time after time after time (seen this in my classes), it is the puppy that doesn't get the time, energy and attention that is needed because there are so many demands from other directions.

    I really can't imagine a 5 month old puppy attacking people aggressively (especially, as you say, since this has occurred since you have brought the puppy home). It is instead 99% likely to be inappropriate play.

    As inappropriate play, it is generated from a need to have an outlet for energy and to have someone to engage with - be it another dog or person. Training simple static obedience behaviours like sit or down etc, simply isn't going to provide enough of an outlet for this.

    And so the first thing I would want to know, is if the puppy is getting OFF LEASH daily, where the pup can RUN - preferably whilst you are practising recalls, or retrieves or working on some training as well - so you don't end up with bog off AWOL dog ignoring you.

    Secondly, I would be wanting to know if the puppy is regularly going to classes, to training or to different locations or environments (pub, cafe, friend's house etc). Novelty will tire the pup out mentally and the pup will crash at home.

    A puppy which has so much energy to be regularly play-biting people in this frenzied way is simply not getting needs met. Do think about whether, with a newborn baby and a 90 year old mother in the same household, you can meet this puppy's needs...

    From the things you describe, I'm not seeing any evidence of anxiety. That's not to say it's not there, but you haven't described any behaviours which would lead me to think of that... I don't see any account of fear-based behaviours in what you're talking about. Possibly if he is fearful of having the harness put on (which has many solutions), that could be one. But not anything else you've described. I know I asked elsewhere for a video so we could see more what is going on. That would still be helpful, if you can post to YouTube. Otherwise, it is very hard to tell you whether this is inappropriate play or fearful reactivity....
     
  5. Chocmum

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    Hi LoopyLuna

    Thanks for your reply. This little fella is Rocket, I mentioned Mr Pickles as he was my beautiful chocolate baby who passed aged 12 from cancer of the spleen, unexpectedly on Christmas Day. I had started looking for a companion for him some months before as I had moved to a house with more space and I had more time.

    Anyway, some of the things you have suggested I am already doing but, I've never heard of Trigger Stacking so am going to look into that, from what you said, it does make sense. None of my previous dogs liked the hoover but they all liked brooms, this fella especially has huge battles up the garden with the brooms! Rocket is not fussed about noise nor the doorbell, he's been really good like that to the extent I thought he was deaf at first. Far too many years ago a friend suggested walking my then Golden Retriever puppy around car parks so he would hear noises and see the hustle and bustle, it worked and I have done that with all of my puppies since.

    Rocket is nervous going out as he thinks he is going in the car, once past the car he drags me down the road quite happily. He was fine going into the car to start with but then I changed cars and he doesn't like this one, once in he is fine luckily. Very good with dogs apart from the embarrassing moment where he was terrified of an elderly, harmless Pug :oops:(oh the shame!) and then cowered as he passed a wooden cut out of a Dolphin (small scale). He is ok with the cut out now, Pugs I think will take a bit longer. Rocket can be very sweet, he often climbs onto my bed and sleeps with his head on my legs or shoulders, oh, and he has the warmest softed belly, much better than a hot water bottle. He will also climb quite happily onto my lap for a snooze or just a cuddle, it's all bizarre really as he can just turn and bite. I tried a baby gate but he just sat behind it air biting and barking.

    It's nice to know that I am not the only one driven to despair by a harness. The behaviourist has suggested holding a treat in one hand to one side while gently touching the other side of his body so hopefully in time that will help.

    Originally I spoke to a behaviourist once the vet had checked him over as I know vets do not do a great deal of training on behaviour problems. The APBC behaviourist (very nice and helpful) said that he was the most anxious dog she had seen and also the first to bite her on the back. The first session was spent just trying to calm him down and it was then that she realised he had behaviour problems.

    We've had a few sessions now and today discussed having to put a soft muzzle on him when out walking. But he was hyper today although we did manage to keep him calm when people are near. It's becoming more obvious that he is scared of people even though he has socialised (and bitten) loads of people in the house and out. Why he is like that I don't know but suspicion has fallen onto the breeder who may have used old style training. That said, I liked the breeder and met him several times before bringing the pup home, his own dogs were very well trained and friendly.

    I'm not keen on a muzzle but if it keeps him safe and feeling secure I will give it a try. I warn people to keep back, but there are a lot of stupid people about so I have to keep them safe as well.

    Many thanks for all of your advice and help, greatly appreciated. I should warn you that I too cannot do short posts, I also talk too much :D
     
  6. Chocmum

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    Hi Jo Laurens.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Firstly, the newborn is not in my house but the adjoining neighbour. Secondly, my mother, although elderly is able to get round quite easily. I have had dogs my whole life and would never bring any animal into my home if I could not care for it, I also have good friends who would gently point out reasons not to have a pet if there were any. I do understand where you are coming from though.

    My puppy has been socialised with people from the day after I brought him home and other dogs as soon as allowed, he is with me most of the day and has regular walks appropriate to his age, these being on street but only when fewer people around, in fields or on the beach, he also swims. I too work on the theory that a tired dog has less energy for mischief but at the same time am aware of his young bones and the damage that can be done if not careful.

    I am using a Professional Behaviourist and although early days have seen some changes. Yes, I know he is young but the sooner this is under control the safer and happier the puppy will be, none of my previous puppies have been this bitey and have past experience with Labrador puppies but none so bitey, hence my contacting a behaviourist.

    The behaviourist has stated that my puppy is the most anxious puppy she has dealt with and has also been on the receiving end of his bites.

    Thanks again.
     
  7. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    I'm so sorry, I must have misread your original post - I hope I didn't cause any upset. Rocket is a fantastic name though, and sounds as though it was made for this little character.

    As @Jo Laurens says, maybe popping a video on here would be useful for her and other experts to see the sort of things that he's up to. From what you've said he just sounds like a very extreme labrador puppy. Maybe some of that's anxiousness or nervousness, but it might also be hyperactivity and just being a baby. 5 months is incredibly young, so please don't worry too much and have faith that with the right approach, it will come good.
     
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  8. Jo Laurens

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    Ah right, when you said 'next door', I thought you meant in the next room...

    I would just repeat again what I've said before - I don't think anyone can help you further with this without being able to say whether it is normal yet inappropriate puppy biting or fear. The approach and the treatment would be very different. Until we can see a video, I don't think there's much more to say.

    As for the behaviourist saying he is 'anxious', I'm afraid I've heard all kinds of (to put it mildly!) bollocks from some trainers and behaviourists. Just because they are a 'professional' trainer or behaviourist, doesn't mean that what they say is right and their word is gospel. There are no requirements for people to set up as trainers or behaviourists in terms of qualifications or experience - these are not protected titles. And what's arguably worse, is I know of many qualified behaviourists listed with reputable organisations, who may have excellent theoretical knowledge, but they really have zero ability to look at the dog in front of them and know what's going on - their head is in academia and not at all in practically fixing problems.

    Which is all to say - I don't put much trust in their diagnosis of him as 'anxious'. He may be anxious in some situations, as when something he see spooks him - but your main problem is with excessive puppy biting, and that behaviour itself is not typically the result of anxiety....
     
  9. Chocmum

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    Hi, it doesn't look like a video will happen, I've no willing victims at the moment. Rocket's problem is definitely with people, the behaviourist and I took him to a local car park to practise loose lead walking near people. Whenever anyone came remotely near his tail would go down and his ears would lie flat, then the barking would start. He also seems more bitey of an evening, friday evening he jumped up and bit my ear for the first time, as I went to move out of the way he bit my upper arm, and the rear of my shoulder. Saturday was not too bad although he spent his second walk with his head down and bum up walking backwards playing. Sunday was a nightmare all afternoon and evening, he just kept running up and biting, when I walked away he bit my back, legs and hair. He chomped my mother's legs and wrecked everything he could get his teeth and paws on. Time out didn't work. When I went to the bathroom he was trying to claw through the door yet, when I came out he greeted me as if I had been away for years and then started biting me again. The behaviourist has suggested a muzzle when out which is probably a good idea but will that stop him from growing out of this? I don't want to make him worse. A relative who has been on the receiving end suggested residential care with emphasis on his biting. I'm a bit wary of that too. So again I don't really know what way is forward with him.
     
  10. Jo Laurens

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    I'm sorry to say it again, but not all behaviourists are 'good' - no matter how qualified or registered they are.

    Any behaviourist who is suggesting putting a muzzle on a little puppy, for puppy play-biting, I think really needs to be treated with extreme scepticism and help sought elsewhere...

    My concern is that you have two very different issues here, which it sounds like your behaviourist has lumped together and called 'anxiety'. Yet they are NOT both caused by anxiety and one is much more serious than the other. You seem to be much more concerned about the puppy-playbiting than the behaviour around strangers and people. Yet it is the behaviour around strangers and people, which in the long-term for this puppy, is the much greater problem. That is the one which is caused by anxiety. Not puppy playbiting.

    As you'll see from reading around the forum, play biting is one of the most common topics which come up and everyone believes they have it worse than everyone else with a Labrador and believes their puppy bites to some abnormal degree. And that can't be true - everyone can't have it worse than everyone else, statistically that doesn't make sense. Instead, puppy play biting is a very NORMAL part of puppy development and it can be a total pain to deal with - but 99% of puppies will grow out of it and there will be no lasting problem whatsoever. There are many ways to manage it safely, all of which are dealt with at length in other posts in this forum.

    If you have a bitey puppy in the evenings, put him in a crate with a Kong. If he bites your mother's legs, do not allow him to be off a puppy house line in the same room as your mother. If he 'wrecks everything he can get his teeth and paws on', keep him in a room where there is nothing he can do this with, keep him on a puppy house line so he can't reach it, and provide him with toys he IS allowed to play with. When you put him in the crate, you are not providing 'time out' as some kind of punishment, you are simply ensuring everyone is safe and isn't exposed to this behaviour whilst he is in the crate. To that degree, of course putting him in the crate 'worked'. If you can't take him out without him biting your legs, TRAIN HIM - take some treats out and work on loose-lead walking. I can guarantee that when treats are available, he isn't going to be biting you. Every second you are out of the house, you should be training him - and you can switch to Look At That if confronted by strange people instead.

    The behaviour around strange people, is something you really should be focussing on and what is happening at the moment sounds very unstructured and not useful.

    Why were you practising loose-lead walking near people?? He is afraid of people - of course he can't do loose-lead walking near them. If you were scared of spiders, would you like to learn how to waltz amongst them? Loose-lead walking should be practised away from anything he is scared of. Work around people should use Look At That or BAT principles to change his emotional response to these triggers and he should not be put in a position where he reacts or barks - a good behaviourist should understand the importance of keeping him under threshold.

    Please see more behaviourists - and I would highly recommend you also attend a force-free training class - there is a limit to what it's possible to help with, online, and you need to be working with someone who is going to correctly identify the main problem being his feelings around people - and help with that.
     
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  11. Harry's Mum

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    Hi Chocmum, when I read your original post I felt such empathy because your Rocket sounds exactly like my son's yellow lab (Loki) He too was described, at four months old, as the most anxious puppy the behaviourist had ever met!
    We have Loki's littermate (Harry) and look after Loki too during work hours. He was, to put it bluntly, a nightmare! A frenzy of barking, biting and jumping, whilst Harry is totally calm and laid back.
    To cut a long story short, after the initial 'diagnosis' the behaviourist (who works with Dogs' Trust) gave my son and his family very similar advice as Jo Laurens has given here - crate, restricted access in the house, especially where the children are, puppy house line, long line outside in exercise area where he won't have to meet strangers/strange dogs. As a result, following instructions to the letter, Loki is a changed puppy. He is much calmer, actually enjoys being outside and is coming along nicely with meeting other people and dogs occasionally. He still has some way to go but is so much more confident and happier.
    Just my long way of saying there's light at the end of the tunnel and best wishes to you and Rocket.
     
  12. Chocmum

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    Hi Jo Laurens and Harry's mum. Thank you for your advice.
    Following your comments earlier (JL) I did start looking for another behaviourist and am soon to see one who will assess Rocket, my current behaviourist is fully aware and willing to pass on any information to the new one.
    The puppy line I hadn't thought of so will try that. I do use a 60ft approx line when out as although he is great with other dogs, it's the people walking along he doesn't like. On the behaviourist's suggestion, I've put yellow 'space needed' bands on his lead because as much as I tell people to not come near there's always some idiot "Aww he's so cute, he won't bite me". That way we are both (pup and me) covered hopefully.
    I've had 5 dogs of my own one after the other and grew up with others and have to say this fella is the most bitey and mischievious. But then, my old lab was still nicking t towels up to a few days before he passed.
    I have been training Rocket from day one and he was great when I first started taking him out and apart from being scared by an elderly pug he was fine with dogs, adults and children. I don't know what I've done to make him change but am not going to give up. You wouldn't know this but I am a life long heart patient and currently on Warfarin so when he draws blood from me it can get very messy hence my biting concerns.
    I've started walking near strangers and when he looks like he is going to lunge I make a quick turn with a treat in front of his nose saying "let's go". I've not heard of BAT training before tonight so will have a proper look at that.
    I agree the muzzle seems a bit extreme although I could see where the suggestion was coming from, but at his age I really wouldn't consider it except maybe, if the vet needed it to treat him as he's already bit her.
    Also, I'm using the Smart 50 Protocol to calm him, I used to calm my old lab by getting him to lie down with a biscuit on each front paw, times have changed or a massage. I must have been so lucky with my previous dogs apart from one they have all been really easy to settle and train, I did do obedience training which I liked but only good Citizen with Pickles up 2 levels and he also did quadranting - searching areas.
    Loki was one of the names I chose funnily enough and they do sound very similar, my chocolate was very calm and laid back unless a leaf floated by and scared him! I think that's why Rocket is such a shock. but, like you say there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    Anyway, once again, many thanks to both of you for your help.
     
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  13. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

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    Emily Larlham just released a great video on her YouTube channel yesterday about puppy playbiting:



    A puppy house-line is an essential piece of equipment to me, I don't know how I'd raise a puppy without one. I give all the pups we breed a free one when they go to new homes and I sell them to puppies attending my classes. You need a Clix Puppy House Line - 2.5m.

    Take a look at Grisha's website and see if there is a CBATI near you: https://grishastewart.com

    She also has a good online puppy training course which implements BAT protocols and you can follow that in your own time, wherever you are: https://grishastewart.com/empowered-puppy-raising/?s2-ssl=yes
     
  14. Chocmum

    Chocmum Registered Users

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    Thank you Jo Laurens. I have looked at the video and although have done some of the things suggested, it actually made me realised that I should have sought help a lot sooner. Tonight when I was fetching his food he jumped on my back biting into my flesh and bra strap, he just stayed there for a minute or two just hanging there and I thought spiders were bad!
    I've also looked at trainers on Grisha's website and two are fairly close to me but one is ridiculously expensive so ruled him out, the other one I shall contact and also another who is about 2 - 3 hours drive just to have a chat about what might be wrong etc., before I go any further. As for the online course I am definitely buying that so I can look at any time.
     
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  15. Ruth Buckley

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    I also have/ had a bitey Loki. I rehomed him from a family who couldn't cope with his biting and boisterous behaviour around their young children. He was horrendous when I got him but he's 2 now and a lovely dog now so hang in there, it will get better.

    I considered residential training but what Loki really needed was to learn to relax and trust us and I couldn't see how that could be achieved without us present.

    I also considered behaviourists but the good ones are so expensive I decided to do loads of reading and completely over haul everything we were doing with him before handing over hundreds of pounds to someone who was going to tell me things I could read for myself.

    If you are going to use a muzzle it needs to be a basket muzzle as soft muzzles prevent dogs from panting. Loki thinks his is a type of treat dispenser, we have never used it on walks but it was really useful when he had blood taken at the vets. (The over excited crazy biting has stopped now but I can't rule out snapping when he's stressed or made to do something he's uncomfortable with).

    I've worked so hard with Loki and I've learnt so much more from him than if I'd had another 'easy' dog. There wasn't a light bulb moment, the biting just went from daily to weekly to monthly - try keeping a diary as progress can be hard to see when you're in the middle of it all.
     
  16. Chocmum

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    Well done for your sucess with Loki. I was losing confidence quite a lot with Rocket and couldn't understand where I was going wrong so chose a behaviourist for both of us. There are some things I wouldn't have thought of but had never have encountered them before so it has been useful although expensive. i.e tap one side of his body while distracting him towards the other side with a treat so I could get his harness on, this is starting to show results but he is crafty.
    I probably will not use a muzzle unless at the vet, Rocket really does not like this vet and my old lab was not keen but I put that down to having had the same vet for 12 years who was super kind. I have a nagging doubt about the way she manhandled him when taking blood despite the nurse suggesting she let me hold him as he was scared, the nurse won that discussion, but he was terrified and his stranger fear started around this time but could be coincidence. The vet is newly qualified and has yet to feel her feet but, I so miss our old one. I would change but the nurses are so good and the other vet nearby is not so nice apparently.
    I used a residential training kennel many years ago, a lovely Liverpudlian lady in Otterbourne who was great with my old lab. Ii did look for her but didn't have any other details. Just remembered that her daughter liked Green Day! At the time my father was taken ill (terminal) and with a young dog approx 1 year and a school age son, without going into too much detail something had to give towards the end so I looked at kennels with some training just so he wouldn't forget and found this lady who was brilliant. Sadly nowadays it seems big business.
    Thank you for your kind words though, it does help and I'm sure Loki will be fine with your care.
     
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