May issue

May issue
May issue

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Change of tune!

My 30-month-old male dog started lunging and barking at some other dogs about six months ago. It is quite random so I never know when he is going to do it and it is hard to hold even in a front clip harness or head collar. The only thing I can think may have caused this was at about 18 months old he was chased, bowled over and bitten.

Before that he loved everyone - dogs and people! Having said that, he was always very respectful when approaching another dog even as a puppy. He was well socialized from a puppy and has never been frightened of vacuums, fireworks etc. But he now twitches when he is touched and I can no longer clip his nails, although he loves being groomed and stroked, when he realizes I am not going to do anything to him. He was also neutered at 10 months.

I take him to dog classes to rebuild his confidence with some lovely dogs and a good trainer, he does very well in class but if I try the advice outside in the real world it doesn’t work! He must give off a nervous vibe as, again quite randomly, some dogs will ignore my friends dogs and chase or snap at him, again I don’t know when this is going to happen, but if I see someone put their dog on a lead I take him out of harms way, but not everyone does.

Some advice I have been given is to get people to walk past at a distance, but he is fine with most dogs especially with my friends' dogs! I can’t go up to strangers and say, excuse me, can you walk your dog in front of my dog to see if he is scary! I take him to local fun dog shows and he is fine, happy to meet all the dogs and shows no sign of a problem, everyone there thinks he is lovely and he always wins rosettes.

If I see another dog on a walk and get him to sit and start feeding him treats, he gets agitated and starts looking around as if the treats are the trigger! I have started clicker training with him, he has taken to this well but this also doesn’t work in situ.

He is a very loving dog, amazing with children, obedient in the house, crate trained, clever, but, I am getting worn out and am constantly embarrassed and disheartened on walks. I try very hard not to tense up as I know I contribute to the tension!

Sandy, via email 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sandy

    Often problems can develop from a single, frightening incident and it is possible this is the case. If so, what a pity after all your socialisation work! Unfortunately it can take dogs a long time to readjust and they need careful and steady help from us to really see a long-term improvement.

    If he is doing well in class that is a good sign as it shows he is capable of relaxing in such an environment. The key might be to find some kind of 'half-way' between the realities of the normal walks and the controlled environment of class. As you are probably experiencing, the 'real world' can be a tough place and you have no control over what other people do. This is probably why you say that some things do not work in situ - it is perhaps too big a leap from one to the other just yet. You need a more gentle intro to the real world. Perhaps your trainer can help you with this?

    It sounds like you could do with a really thorough behaviour assessment and some plans in place to make sure that he does not associate the sit you are putting in place with a possible problem. Usually I set clients a thorough training plan to prevent this happening so that the dog adjusts to doing their new 'job' without any problems being present. The dog then learns to focus very carefully on you and ignore other things around him.

    Finally do not blame yourself or feel stressed as this is most certainly a team effort. Your dog needs your support and this is a gradual process. Once you have a plan in place (try an APBC member for this) things should start to improve for you all.

    Karen Wild
    Dogs Today behaviourist