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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Nervous disposition

Please, please, please is there someone who can advise me?

I have a small terrier cross (we think Patterdale cross), who I rehomed from a small rescue group in January 2010. Rosie was found wandering the streets and was put in the dog pound. She did not do very well there and the rescue group which was contacted found a foster home for her. An assessment had been done which stated that she was OK with other dogs. When we brought Rosie home she must have been quite traumatised by everything that had happened to her, as she did not bark and was very quiet and withdrawn for about a month.

She is now very settled and is a wonderful little companion. The problem is when she sees another dog she goes into a hysterical panic. There is nothing that will pacify her until she can no longer see the dog. I think she is scared of them because when we pass front gardens where there are often dogs about, she will look up at me, pull away and not want to go near.

I have taken her to training, and have managed to get her to sit and concentrate on a treat while the other dogs move around (which she will not do on a normal walk) but I feel an unhappiness in her and am not sure if I should continue putting her through this ordeal. In all other respects she is so sweet and very obedient - she has a brilliant recall (except when squirrels are around!) and can sit/stay for ages. If she does not actually see the dog i.e. behind a parked car, she hardly reacts, perhaps just a nose in he air. Considering she is very food orientated and will normally do anything for a treat I am at a loss as to how to help her.

I contacted the rescue centre behaviourist who was not very helpful, and I have also tried clicker training and a trainer from amichien bonding (dog listener) without success.

I would very much appreciate any help in this matter.

Maggie Woods, by email


  1. Taking her to training classes doesn't get her used to being around strange dogs, just the dogs in the class.

    Amichien bonding unfortunately seems to work by having one set strategy that should work on all dogs, and any failure is usually down to the owner 'not doing it properly'.

    Sometimes I think we should listen to our dogs, your little dog is telling you she doesn't want anything to do with other dogs, and although it's not always possible to avoid other dogs I wouldn't try to force her to like them. Distance is everything to a dog, so give her plenty of space when you can, and find a trainer who is more prepared to work with your little dog and her needs, hopefully someone who has worked with fearful dogs before - with success. There are lots of training organisations around, and like everything else there are good and bad in each, so find someone who will let you speak to previous clients. I like Ttellington touch for the groundwork, as this really helped my terrier - we'd put distance in between him and what was getting him worked up and do the groundwork which calmed him. He wasn't fearful in that sense, but this helped him to learn to focus on me, not the other dogs. Good luck!

  2. Kathryn Reilly8 June 2011 at 02:31

    You should try to see Chris Day at the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre. He is a genius. I drive over two hours each way to see him and it's absolutely worth it - he works with Bach Flower Remedies and the like and the effects can be incredible. Find out more here:

  3. A training class is an artificial invironment and for a dog with Rosies depth of fear, she needs slow, progressive, careful help in "the real world" to help her cope. She needs to be helped and encouraged to cope with her fear and then to learn to control it.

    Ask your vet about a product called Zylkene - it is NOT a cure, but could help.

    There is an amazing book called CONTROL UNLEASHED which could really help Rosie. If she understands clicker, then you are on the right road!! This method gives control to the dog, and helps them to learn for themselves how to cope with a fearful situation/dog or whatever. It really does work!!!

    Good luck and hopefully this time next year Rosie will be a different and happier dog around strange dogs.


  4. All behaviourists are not equal and I tried two before finding that the third was an absolute godsend. Our dog was a rescue collie cross who barked and lunged at all other dogs and certain people eg those wearing hats or carrying something. The first guy we consulted was connected to the rehoming centre and offered ideas for things to do within the home but of course our problems were with people and dogs outside the home. The second behaviourist diagnosed fear aggression but offered no help in actually dealing with the problem. By the time we found the third, we were 5 years down the line, at our wits end, and considering euthanasia. Fortunately she made it possible for us to enjoy five extra wonderful years with our beautiful dog. She used her own two dogs as stooges and every week for several months, she would walk up and down one end of a field with them while we walked up and down the other end with our dog. Over the weeks we gradually decreased the distance between us and we would reward any calm behaviour that our dog showed with treats. By the end of our sessions our dog had become so used to other dogs that we were able to join a training class and let him off the lead for recalls and play. I wish you all the best as I well remember the misery of ducking behind cars so that our dog couldn't see the dog across the road. I promise you it can and does get better!