Chronics of a (Not-So-Trouble-Anymore) Boy

Bonjour everyone !

Laura speaking here ! I promised you I'd update you on Lincoln's change of behavior since he was quite trouble a few months ago and you all gave me great advices and helped us a lot !

watching the birds through the window

Well, I'm proud to say Lincoln has almost become a perfect angel ! He is 16 months old now, and when I look back, I remember Lincoln chewing on furnitures, me always stressing out when leaving the house without him, Lincoln being VERY annoying during his walks (he'd start jumping for no reason, running around while he was on-leash...), Lincoln jumping on visitors, and so on.... and well I must say, it has improved a LOT !

First a all, all the detachment work we did (especially with me) has been very hard but working like magic! 
Lincoln's anxiety when we left the house clearly was linked with the fact that I just gave him too much attention, all the time, being too happy to have my first own dog... and I guess it wasn't easy for Lincoln (who's quite an emotional sponge) to deal with it. 
He used to sleep with us in the bedroom - not in the bed (though sometimes he did came in the morning...) and we've decided we'd use our move to Bordeaux to change that habit. He now sleeps in his own room with a baby gate at the door and he did not complain about it even once, not even the first night - he loves it !

We also started to teach him that he has to live his own life without us (not easy with a great dane hehe), and started leaving him from time to time in his room even when we were home (he did start lunging at the beginning, but seeing we did not react, he quickly stopped). 

Big part of the detachment work for me (and the hardest for sure) was also to push him away when he was asking me for cuddles or else - I had to make him earn everything (even just by asking him to shake paws, to sit... ). He used to think I'd let him do anything, now when I say "no, leave me alone" he understands and go away (well, most of the time anyway).

We've also been working with visitors, making him sit and wait until I say the release word. He is now doing great and my mum who had not seen him for 3 months said he had changed a lot :-)

looking good !

What has changed also are the destructions in the house. Well, since middle November there has been none ! We first thought it was because of the pheromone diffuser we put in his room, but then after a couple of months we've decided to remove it and it did not change anything. 

Before, when we were about to leave, Lincoln would start whining, sometimes even barking, or he'd start scratching the floor.... We also worked hard on this point. Fake departures, music on ( so he does not hear all the noises from the neighbors and everything (we live on the ground floor so there's quite a lot of noise ). We also stopped making a fuss of him every time we came back, and continued doing a bit of clicker every time before we leave (even if we're in a hurry and we only have 5 minutes left we still do it! he loves it. )

And now.... he knows when we're leaving, because he goes in his bed (like if he had finally understood that we were going to come home no matter what) ! Every time we come home he's all warm and groggy which makes us believe he just spends all the time sleeping like a baby. 

Lincoln being able to stay home on his own without destroying anything is a big big RELIEF. 

Anyway, I said "I'm proud to say Lincoln has almost become a perfect angel", and used "almost" because YES it's not perfect yet as he still has a problem when we see others dogs on the street ( it's not automatic anymore but still it happens very often) and that's very embarrassing because I know other people think my dog is dangerous or mean when I know he is NOT, I can see he just can't stop himself from acting silly and growling (with excitement). 

playing in the park

Though he is very very well behaved on leash (he walks perfectly next to me) .... he will very often stop (he does not pull on the leash) when he sees a dog (and especially if it's a small dog), raise his ears, and start growling with excitement and sometime start jumping. 

I try to make him walk, heel, sit. Everything. Nothing seems to work. I understand people find it scary (I would if I did not know my dog !)... and it's making me feel like I'm helpless, especially when the behaviorist and one of the trainer told me Lincoln is just like that and there's a chance he won't change on that point ... we've been working a LOT on it, and he's perfect with other dogs when off-leash (he plays really rough, but he is not aggressive), but now I'm starting to feel like we're working on it for nothing because there's not much change even though we work on it EVERY single day. 

Do you have any tips for us ? Any suggestion ? 

thanks for your help !!
But despite this problem we are very very happy. Lincoln is a very loving dog and he is very gentle with humans. He loves to have a good play but also knows when it's time to calm down. He loves to learn new things, still loves his clicker training and he's very good at tricks now - and yes, I must make a video of all the improvements ! 
Tomorrow we're taking him to a playdate with two other great danes and a labrador ! We're going there by bus (Lincoln loves the bus!).
We will post pictures on here !

Thanks to all of you for always leaving us nice comments !! 

PS:  I'm so sorry if I make horrible mistakes in English from time to time ! Please, bear with me. (and I'm sure Lincoln speaks better English than I do ! Hehe )


  1. You have done fantastic with Lincoln and you should be extremely proud of both of you! A well mannered dog is an absolute joy - but remember you have to keep working at it... eventually it becomes second nature to you and him and you don't even realize you are still doing it.

    For the jumping happy greeting - distraction and reinforcing calm behavior is the key. Try carrying some nice smelly treats - liver is good if he can tolerate that. Or a squeaky ball. Put him in the sit position when he starts even the tiniest bit of 'happy behavior' and when he is settled reward him with a treat and positive words. After a few times of doing this I would ask if you can let him meet the other dog. If you can do this with someone you know for the first few times it will help him get the idea. Perhaps if you see someone on a regular basis his does this too - you could go for a walk by yourself and meet the person and their dog - explain the training you want to do and ask them if they would be willing to help. (It's also a great way to meet a possible new friend).

  2. I'm so glad you have had huge improvements with Lincolns behaviour!! It makes everything much more enjoyable!!

    Do not give up on Lincolns dog distraction while on-leash, lets hope your behaviourist meant that Lincoln will never be able to walk past another dog with you NOT having to do anything, you'll definitely be able to get him to a point where he won't react if you manage the situation.

    Lexi has the same behaviour, though she is very friendly with other dogs. Her behaviour on-leash is more dominance than wanting to play. Reaction to dogs on-leash is a very command problem. But you can manage it if you put in the work and you'll get there fairly quickly especially since you're putting a lot of work in around the home to regain your pack leader status. The problem might be at this stage you don't have that status out and about when coming across other dogs on the leash! You will get there :) I'll drop you and email how I manage Lexi.


  3. Hi Laura (I didn't realise before but that is also our daughter's name, yay).
    Lincoln is becoming such a wonderful boy and sounds like he has made great improvements, thanks to your love and training. You are doing a fabulous job. You should be proud of yourself!!!

    It seems a little odd to me that a behaviousist would say he will not change. I would love to hear Hsin-Yi's comment about that. I am not sure what advice to give about this problem except keep trying with the treats. I wonder if you should decide on one method eg either sit and wait till they pass while feeding treats, or continue walking with treats etc rather trying different methods. Good luck and I will be interested to read other people's comments too.

    Lincoln is a wonderful boy and lucky to live with such a brilliant family to care for him. Take care all. We look forward to hearing more about your adventures. No worries, and love, Carol (and Stella and Rory)

  4. Oh how nice that Lincoln has improved that much! Good job!!

    Well, in sweden there is a book called Kontaktkontraktet (meaning the contact contract) and there is a whole chapter in it called "Snitching is good". The point of the chapter is that if you for ex. has a problem with barking/getting excited when seeing another dog, a cat, a bunny or something else - the dog comes and tell you about it instead of barking/jumping, etc, insanely. How to do that is simply by rewarding him for noticing another dog (preferably the moment between noticing and getting excited about it).

    In a while, instead of trying to get to the other dog, he'll turn to get a treat from you instead. I of course haven't tried it myself since I do not have a dog, but a friend of mine is a dog trainer and she knows alot about dogs and she says it could work (I've talked about this method with her before).

    This method is what I recommended Oscar The Pooch (blogspot) and now checking in on him several months later, he seems to bark alot less!

    His owner also dug up some fascinating videos about this kind of training (rewarding an unwanted behavior on purpose). One video was about a woman trying to get a dog to stop jumping when waiting for his food, trying to reach it. She started clicking the jumping, then adding the word, and after that only rewarding jumps after she'd said the word and made it into a trick instead - he no longer jumps to get his food, he learn't it didn't pay off to jump when the word was not spoken.

    Amazing, I think!

    Good luck,

  5. Congrats on the great job with Lincoln. We think you have done very well. When we are walking on leash and another dog is approaching, Mom makes us sit and tells us "leave it". It took a lot of practice and tasty treats, but it does help a lot. You can also make him do a sit and tell him to "watch me" and then reward him.

    We think you do a great job with your English, no need to apologize at all.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Well done on Lincoln becoming your 'almost' prefect Angel...but who is perfect now days? ;)

    Dante and Daisy-Boo have no problems with dogs when on the lead..but Sampson was the same he would get all hyper and bounce around..I thought I owned a kangaroo!

    So when we see a dog now, if Sampson give the other dog any fixation I tug his lead sharply once to one side, to throw him off. As soon as he gives eye contact I treat and praise...he soon figured out that I will give him yummy treats for not bothering with other doggies! It also helps if I have the lead loose when I see another Sampson can sense if I feel tense about the whole situation if I hold the lead tight.

    Hope this helps!


  8. Hi Laura - I am so happy to hear about the progress you're making with Lincoln!! I think he is a testament and example of what can be done with dedicated, patient owners like you!! I am really proud of him - but more of YOU!! Seriously, you don't know how many Dane owners come to me with exactly the same problems as you had and I give them exactly the same advice but how few people are willing to put in the hard work - it can be boring, repetitive and slow - but it CAN make a difference - as you have proven!!!

    So I would say that I disagree with your trainer/behaviourist about Lincoln not changing his behaviour on-leash. If you think about it, you have only been working hard on his home behaviour since end of last year - so a few months - so it is still only a little time. And his leash behaviour is so much harder to control because you are at the mercy of your outdoor environment where there are distractions you cannot control, unlike at home (eg, how the other dog reacts can also make a big difference). In fact, I notice that you said his reaction is "not automatic but often" - well, I think this is already a very positive statement. The fact that SOMETIMES he doesn't do it is very promising. Observe those times - it will help you learn - when does he NOT react? Is it when the other dog is calmer? Are they further apart? Are they facing directly head-on each other or side-to-side? And you - are you tightening the leash? Stiffening up & holding your breath? Changing your voice? Pay attention to all these cues and work out when Lincoln DOESN'T react as this will help you a lot.

    But I personally think it is just a matter of time. Keep doing what you're doing - it sounds like you're doing all the right things. Keep working at it. Sometimes, these kinds of (self-reinforcing/self-rewarding) behaviour can take months to change. I know that sounds very disheartening but don't lose hope. We had to work with Honey for many months - she had a very similar behaviour to Lincoln - she got too excited when she saw another dog on leash and was even worse: instead of just growling, she would start lunging towards them. (and look at her now - would you believe it?) We used the 'Heel' command to help us - as this gave her an alternative appropriate action to focus on and kept her moving (usually AWAY from the other dog) rather than staying in that place and obsessing over the other dog. Best to keep him moving, as much as you can - don't let him learn that he can stop you. Gentle tugs on the leash, give him a command, insist (gently) that he does it and then reward him when he eventually does, even if it is delayed. It is just like how you described your home routine - eventually he will learn that no matter what he does, you won't stop to let him obsess over the dog and so he will give up & keep moving. So just don't lose heart - keep persisting.

    I know it's very hard work - and sometimes it really feels like 1 step forward, 2 steps back...but trust me, if you keep at it, you will see an improvement. Of course, he will never be 100% perfect (no dog is!) but he will be manageable. Honey still has occasional "moments" when she forgets herself and reverts to her old bad habits but I can break through them very quickly and get her back under control. We started tackling her problem when she was about 1yr old - took us about 6 months in total to get her walking calmly past other dogs - it was only by about 2yrs that we could really relax most of the time (but still remain watchful) - but after that, we have had 6yrs of enjoyable time with her. Lincoln is still young so if you just persist, you will get on top of his behaviour and you will still have many years to enjoy him.


  9. (...continued)

    It is also very important to watch his body language. The best way of handling this kind of obsession is to not let it take over in the first place. So "interrupt" him if you see him start to go into the frenzy. You should be able to tell by certain signs - with Honey, her ears go up & forwards, she stands up high on her toes, leans forward, thrusting her head forward and becomes stiff...and most of all, her eyes get a very hard, fixated look. As soon as I see these "Warning signs", I interrupt it - I call her name, say "Honey, NO" or "Leave it" or anything - whatever, just to break her concentration and as soon as I see her ears move back down/backwards - I praise her. She is breaking out of her fixation. I turn her attention away, BEFORE she gets a chance to get too fixated on the other dog. So it is a matter of timing - of you watching his body language and getting first. Don't wait until he has stopped and is staring - that is already too late and then it becomes very hard to break through (plus his adrenalin will mean that he is not paying attention to anything - treats, correction, distraction, anything). If you can learn to manage this, you will find it much easier to divert him before he gets into that bad state. This is the main thing we've learnt with Honey. Yes, having commands to control them when they are behaving badly is important but the best thing is to manage it so that they don't have the chance to get into the bad behaviour in the first place. Once they are "hyped up", everything becomes 10 times harder! :-)

    I also agree with Linnea - you can try "classical conditioning" - again, timing is important - AS SOON AS LINCOLN SEES ANOTHER DOG - before he has time to react, give him a treat. If you do this repetitively, he will start to associate the sight of dogs with treats and will start to turn to you expectantly when he sees another dog. This is what we did with Honey and it worked very well. Now, as soon as she sees a dog - especially one which is barking/lunging - she will turn & look at me. She knows that the more aggressive/excited it is - the bigger her treat!! :-)

    Finally, choose your battles wisely. While you are still working on Lincoln's behaviour, try to only go to places where you can control how much distance between yourself & the other dog. Don't go to places which are narrow and you have to pass close by. This way, you can make sure that Lincoln always stays a safe distance - outside his "trigger distance", so you don't set him up to fail. Also - very important - if you see any dog acting too excited/aggressive/lunging/barking/jumping - Keep your distance form them. It is too much provocation for Lincoln at this point now, when you're still working with him. No use forcing him to cope with something he is not ready yet. It is unfair on him and on you. If you see a nice, calm dog who is ignoring Lincoln, then yes, use it as an opportunity to see if you can pass by closer and keep Lincoln moving with you - good training practice - but if the other dog is acting up, keep away so that you don't force Lincoln & yourself into a difficult situation. It's like when you first learn to swim, you wouldnt' immediately jump into a 100m Olympic pool, right? :-) And everytime you have a bad experience, you will lose confidence in yourself & in Lincoln. So try to keep things in slow steps and control your environment as much as you can - don't put yourself into a difficult situation when you're not ready for it yet.

    Good luck and I'm sure I will soon be reading more good news on your blog! :-)

    ps. you can always email me if you need any more help or more explanations.