Nothing In Life Is Free

Beanie, Biggles and the two of us are all feeling a lot more relaxed after our session with Heather Smith this morning:


A fully chilled Bigglet, for the first time in several days

From our description of recent events and past Beanie/Biggles behavior, and from her own careful observation of our two in their home, Heather agreed with us that Beanie’s attacks all seemed to have a resource motive, and prescribed a two week course of NILIF – Nothing In Life Is Free.

In a way this programme applies almost as much to us as to our Beagles. Beanie and Biggles will now have to perform a trick or other desirable behavior for just about every good thing in their lives, even things like being released from their crates. The flip side of this is that we have to be vigilant toll-keepers and not leave anything lying around (toys, plates, cups etc) that our pups could get for free. Treats, cuddles, strokes and other demonstrations of affection only happen when we decide they’re appropriate, not when Beanie and Biggles come looking for them, and all doggy meals will be hand-fed rather than served up in a bowl. As an aside I rather suspect that Biggles and most especially Beanie will see the hand feeding as a huge and unexpected reward rather than a restriction. During her puppyhood she once went on hunger strike and would only accept the very tastiest morsels from our fingers; after all, bowls are for commoners! Still, it’s in the programme and we’ll stick to it. Also in the programme is a temporary ban on access to the sofas and our beds, and on play sessions between Beanie and Biggles, but they can play with us. In fact Heather showed us a tuggy game designed to increase our two Beagles’ self-control and help them quickly calm down from an excited state. We’ve needed something like that for them for a while, and it’s fun for us too.

To ensure that Beanie and Biggles recognize that we are both equally in charge we’ll now be swapping dogs on a regular basis. This will make our next agility lesson very interesting; I’ll have to be much faster with my verbal commands and footwork when I’m handling Beanie, and Susan will certainly have her hands full with the Bigglet. Also, when we’re out canicrossing Susan and I will either run along side each other or one of us will take both dogs – we won’t have either one of our Beagles trailing behind the other and possible feeling excluded from the pack any more.

Finally, if Beanie should attack Biggles again, we’ve been given tips on how to deal with it. Specifically:

  • Refrain from shouting; it’s instinctive to shout to try to break up the fight, but at best it’s ineffective and at worst it could actually spur on the attack
  • When pulling the dogs apart, avoid any lifting motion on their collars; just try to draw them apart horizontally
  • Either put Beanie on her side (partly to give her the message that the attack is unacceptable, and partly to calm her down) or put her in a sit, and exclude her from the group for 20 mins or so.
  • Don’t make a fuss of Biggles, and don’t force him to stay near Beanie either, but make sure that it’s Beanie who feels excluded after the attack and not him
  • When things have calmed down, a side-by-side walk outside is a good idea.
  • When reintroducing them to the same room, try to have Biggles enter the room and settle first, then allow Beanie to enter.
  • Position Biggles so that he feels he has an easy escape route if he’s acting fearfully

Looking through all this, it seems like we got some things right over the few of days prior to Heather’s visit. Using the baskets to give our dogs a set location to stay in was a good move, as was walking them together after each attack (although we should have had a longer cooling off period before starting the walk). We did try the NILIF approach too, though not as comprehensively as the one given to us by Heather. That said, we didn’t have much confidence in what we were doing, and that’s where it really helps to call in an expert that we both trust: we’re now more confident in our dealings with the two Bs, and this in itself helps put them at rest.



By this evening Biggles was behaving much more like his normal self, and repeatedly tried to invite Beanie into a play session. She would have been happy to accept, but of course we didn’t allow it. Still, it brought a big smile to my face to see him back on form! He really should be getting “danger money” though. It reminded me of the Monty Python sketch in which a dim-witted accountant thinks he’s ready to become a professional lion tamer.

[Please note that Heather has no problem with us sharing what she told us, but it’s important to remember that her advice in this case is specific to our situation and our dogs]

One Reply to “Nothing In Life Is Free”

  1. Penny & Molly

    When Molly was about five months she was showing signs of agression when anything was done that she didn’t like. She growled at my vet who said straight away he would refer her to a behaviourist as this needed “nipping in the bud” Jo was marvellous and prescribed much the same NILIF programmes as you are having. It was a great success and the results were very quick. Molly will still snarl at Henry on rare occasions but it doesn’t get out of hand.
    Thank you so much for sharing your present problems with us hopefully you will see rapid results too.

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