What if your rescue dog has behaviour problems
August 21, 2019
Reactive Dog Walking

– The story of my Flash Part 1

Flash bounded into my life in August 2014, he was genuinely the biggest Old English Sheepdog I had seen he had the longest legs and the biggest smile. He was aged one and came to me when his current owners were no longer able to keep him.
What came next was a battle of wits, nights crying down the phone to my mum, laughter and much more. Flash who was the happiest boy who was use to doing what he wanted when he wanted, he unknown to me had a list of behaviour and training issues.
So I had an uphill battle on my hands.

Can I cope with a problem dog?
First things first Flash came from a loving home and I know he was loved very much but that wasn’t enough for Flash or for most dogs for that matter. When he arrived he had a bed, food, collar lead, a sheepie toy (that was his first ever toy and I was asked to ensure Flash always kept it, he did) and zero manners.
After our first week together I had realised that life with Flash wasn’t going to be as straight forward as life with Mabel was. Walks involved me being dragged everywhere, every dog Flash saw he had to meet but he didn’t know dog ettiquete, he wouldn’t eat his food when I gave it him, he wouldn’t let me brush him and he didn’t have bite inhibition, pretty soon I was covered in bruises. Oh and I discovered he was barking my flat down everytime I went out.
I honestly found myself asking some tough questions like was Flash the right dog for me? Should I give him up? how was I going to cope? with the occasional what have I done? I knew I could have a dog in my life thanks to Mabel, but with Flash was I biting off more then I could do? Its one thing to adopt a dog but if I couldn’t give him what he needed then surely I wasn’t right for him? These were hard questions and should be asked by everyone who adopts a dog and finds there are some problems.
With the help and support of my parents and friends I knew that I was going to keep him. This came with the acknowledgement that serious hard work and time was need to help him undo his bad habits, giving him rules and boundaries along with taking him to dog training classes.
But had I come to the decision that Flash and I weren’t meant to be I would have got in touch with the Old English Sheepdog Rescue and Contacted the people who also have Old English Sheepdogs to find a suitable home. Aswell as seeking out my local dog shelters.
If you do find yourself with the reality that you and your new 4 legged friend aren’t really suited to each other then the best thing you can do is find them a more suitable home.
So first things first, me I had to dig deep to find strength and positivity to help Flash after all he had gone through a massive change in his life and I going to change the things he liked doing such as pulling on the lead and mouthing me.

Walks and Walking
I hired a dog walker to check in on him everyday while I was at work, before and after work he got a big walk with me. Living in Leith meant I was close to a great park and lots of safe cycle paths.
Walks were a bit of a nightmare at first, I was literally dragged around EVERYWHERE and I struggling to stay on my feet! If he spotted a dog he race to see them but didn’t know the dog rules of how to say hello. It was the same with people, if anyone acknowledged his presence he wanted to say hello but was always a bit bouncy!
I got dog treats for when we out walking to help distract him. Although he was completely indifferent to the treats and I must have bought lots of different treats, he couldn’t care less. I mean what dog refuses treats??? then at the suggestion of my mum I tried cheese and jackpot for the first time Flash started to pay attention to me on out walks.
Next I bought a Halti Head Collar to help me manage his pulling, unfortunately due to the fixed design of the Halti it ended up pulling up into his eyes. So after chatting to a fellow dog owner out on a walk one day I was recommended a Canny Collar.
The Canny Collar was perfect for Flash and really helped me. He hated it to begin with and would try and pull it off, put I persisted while trying not to get annoyed at him. Over time he accepted his fate with the Canny, I stopped being dragged everywhere don’t get me wrong he still pulled but I was able to handle it. To stop him pulling I had to train him to walk with me.
Between dog training classes and my own patience Flash eventually walked with me and without pulling me. I am talking months of training, practice, Mexican stand-offs between Flash and I over him wearing the collar, lots of liver cake and cheese.
I was able to wean him off the Canny Collar although it was probably a good 18 months after he arrived that he was walking just with a lead and collar.

Biting and Mouthing
Turns out Flash didn’t have any bite inhibition, you’ll know that if you’ve ever handled a puppy they like to explore you with their mouths and teeth. If you don’t teach a puppy not to mouth you then you end up with Flash a 35kg dog who liked to mouth me. At no point was Flash aggressive with the mouthing for him he did it if he wanted my attention or was overly excited.
He also like to grab hold of my clothing which resulted in many many holes in my joggers, t-shirts jumpers the list goes on. Thankfully these were all my house clothes with the occasional piece of work wear caught by his teeth.
I’ll be honest this was the toughest thing for me to undo and usually the reason I ended up crying down the phone to my mum. I was covered in bruises, my clothes were ripped and Flash just thought it was all a big game.
I had to go back to puppy basics with him. As soon as he put teeth on my I yelped loudly while this worked for a day or two Flash just started ignoring me. So I’d turn my back on him and wait for him to be quiet, then turn back to face him and carry on do what we were doing. The hardest part was that I’d end up doing this several times in a row, you see once Flash started it was hard to get him to stop.
There were the times that when I turned my back he’d simply attacked my trousers so I had to leave the room and shut the door behind me. I’d wait for a minute or 2 then enter the room and if he started on me again then back out the room I’d go.
Patience and consistancey were the key to finally getting through to Flash, he learned that teeth on my skin or clothes meant he would get ignored because I’d turn my back on him or leave the room which was the exact opposite of what drove him to mouth me.
The only part of his mouthing I couldn’t undo came when he would play chase with other dogs. He loved chase however if he got too excited he’d ‘catch’ the other dog with his teeth. Again he wasn’t being aggressive he was simply playing tag liked he would have done with his litter mates.
For this behaviour I use to call Flash back to me before the game became too exciting for him. I few times he quite rightly got told off by the other dog, the good thing was Flash never retailated. Once I literally had to rugby tackle him to the ground to stop him from playing.

When Flash arrived that first day he had a big patch of matted hair down his back, it took my mum 2 days to comb and work it out. I stood with Flash to ensure he knew it was OK. Once home with me he refused to be brushed, he barely let me get a brush over him never mind use a comb on his knots.
Any little bit I tired to do resulted in a bit battle of wills and wits as Flash would try to escape while I tired to hold on to him! After a month or so I had one very knotted dog, Old English Sheepdog coats change a lot when they are 1 as it turns in their adult coat and I swear it gains a new knot everytime you look at it. The only way around this knotty nightmare was to shave him to allow me the chance to start a fresh with him and avoid Flash the stress of hours of grooming to make him knot free again.
Bit by bit I was able to show him grooming was good thing and he was able to let me do it too. Once a month I’d go and see my mum so she could get some of the tougher knots out while showing me how to do it right too. As long as I stayed by Flash he would let my mum groom him.
Eventually Flash grew a lovely long coat that would get him lots of attention and he learned to tolerate being brushed. For me grooming became stressless and I was able to enjoy our time together while he was on my grooming table.
Doggy Manners

So Flash loved meeting dogs except he clearly had no clue how to interact with one. He’d desperately pull me towards every dog he saw, then when he’d get there he be bouncy and over the top with the poor dog in question.
Once he was wearing the Canny Collar and I could manage his pulling these situations became easier for me to handle. Thankfully Flash knew how to do a sit, so I’d ask for a sit if he became too excited. I was able to let him sniff other dogs and tell him he was a good boy for it, however if he got too excited I’d pull him away.
Over time he got better at meeting new dogs and greeting them correctly. One of the good things about going to dog training classes was that Flash learned to be around other dogs and realise he didn’t have to meet them all. He got use to working around them with me that meeting new dogs became less of an event!
With people Flash was always great, he was happy to flirt, be stroked and fussed over. Trips to the Vet was never stressed because he was getting to flirt with the receptionist, the vet and anyone who we’d meet in the street on the way there! This is skill led me to get him signed up as a Therapet and be a blood donor too but more on those another time.

There is still much more
Well thats enough for now Part 2 will follow. I’ll tell you about his obsession with my parents dog Todd, how he liked to bark all day long when I left him and how I got him to eat on my schedule not his!!
Take Care Suzanne

Further Reading

How to Change Your Reactive Dogs Behaviour

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How To Help Your Reactive Dog

How To Help Your Reactive Dog

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Dynamic Dog Case Study: Brodie

Dynamic Dog Case Study: Brodie

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Dynamic Dog Case Study: Puka

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