Pack Instinct


George Gough has been training dogs on the Costa del Sol since 2013. He has completed the Training Cesar’s Way course and was personally taught by Cesar Millan, one of the most famous names in canine behaviour training. George provides assistance to dog owners whose pets need help, from severe behavioural challenges to more modest everyday struggles. He’s here to share his knowledge with Society readers and answer your questions.

Are you scared of your dog?

This is a topic that few people wan to talk about and I just want you to know that it really is quite alright to be scared of your dog. Please don't feel bad about it. Accept it, if you know it's true. Some dogs are dangerous to be around and without knowing what to do, you can feel like you’re always making the situation worse and that you’re always one step away from a huge disaster. Basically, you have a challenging dog and you just need a little help.

I meet a lot of people who genuinely and honestly tell me that they are scared of their dog. I feel humble when people feel they can share that information with me. A lot of these people believe that their fear is rubbing off on their dog and that their mere presence is unhealthy for their dog. What they see is this: when someone else takes the leash, you watch a polite, calm, cooperative dog walk off with your friend who they don't even know that well and this just confirms your beliefs that it must be you. Something you’re doing, the way your feeling, etc.

I don't believe your dog is a mirror for your emotions or state of mind. I have seen calm confident owners with out of control dogs, and I have seen frantic, not very assertive owners with completely chilled out dogs.

I believe that your thoughts and emotions affect your body language. Your dogs read your body language. They understand your body language extremely well and probably better than you do, because they read it all day long apart from when you’re asleep.

This is what your dog picks up on, so stop worrying that you’re just too nervous or too fearful to do anything to help your dog make progress. Instead, start practising thinking thoughts that will send the right message to your dog. Worrying will result in the wrong message and in bad/weak energy being passed to your dog.

Breathing, working on body posture, visualising and living in the now will help you deliver the right message with good/strong energy.

Please, if you have a dog you know you’re afraid of, or feel you can no longer make progress with them, please ask for help. You'll be surprised at how just pushing yourself that little bit further will rub off on your relationship with your dog.

Your Canine Corner
George answers your questions…

Q: My dog is a rescue Staffordshire Bull Terrier. When we’re out walking she is obsessed with finding the bits of food people throw everywhere. I’m worried she will eat something that makes her ill. Is there any way to stop this behaviour?

A: Yes there is! Your dog is going into a hunting/ scavenging behaviour when out on walks. This can be fixed, but you have to be consistent with your rules on the walk and what you expect from your dog on the walk. You really want your dog to be calm and by your side on the walk. That means no sniffing, no pulling, no barking, no scavenging, no lunging at what might look good.
On the structured walk, you decide what will happen, when it will happen and how it will happen. Scavenging for food is not on the list!

By doing this, your sending a very clear message to your dog that you control the activity of the walk and there will be time for toileting and play. Increase your dog’s pack drive by keeping her close to you and start to take control of the prey drive. For example, you can hide treats and send your dog to find them. Now you’re controlling the hunting exercise and giving your dog an outlet for his energy.

Q: My partner’s dog is a Springer spaniel aged 14. We have a baby who is starting to crawl and the dog barks at the baby when the baby is on the floor. I’m worried that the dog might bite the baby and that he sees the baby as beneath him in the pack. What is the best way to handle this?

Hey there, thank you for this question. Unfortunately, babies get bitten by dogs all the time, and dogs get put in shelters and put to sleep because of it. Lets talk about what your dog sees, and then how I would begin to fix it.

Your dog does not see your baby as a little human. Why? Because your baby doesn't act like anything your dog has experienced or had to deal with before. Dogs usually see babies’ behaviour as suspicious. He does not understand it, and if a dog bites a baby it is NOT THE DOGS FAULT!

I would start to get the dog used to the baby by using a crate. I would have the dog crated while the baby was with me next to the crate. I want the dog to see that the baby belongs to me. That I control the baby, I hold the baby, I give the baby affection. Then I would put the baby in his cot and give the dog affection. I’m teaching the dog that the relationship is controlled by me. I can get the dog to sit in front of me (on a leash) while I hold the baby. When it’s time to put the baby to bed and he is in his cot, I can then go back to the dog. Do not leave your baby on the ground and let your dog sniff or “get to know” him. Control your dog, give your dog clear limitations and good boundaries and you'll have a very happy life with the baby and the dog.

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