Somebody said “The dog is your mirror. The behaviour you get is usually, in some way, a reflection of your own.” This was particularly apparent in the case I went to yesterday with fifteen-month old Pug, Parker.
He has problems that only manifest themselves around his lady owner, not with the gentleman. For instance, when the man takes him out, he is unfazed when someone approaches them and is okay for them to lean over and touch him. The man is relaxed about it. When the lady takes him out, he becomes very anxious when a person approaches; the lady is anxious. Parker barks aggressively and if someone tries to touch him he may snap.
The biggest problem for the family is that Parker feels threatened when someone comes to the house (or feels the lady and young son might be threatened – not the man). He is becoming increasingly protective. He will bark quite aggressively at them. He gets very agitated if either the lady or the son leaves the room.
It seems Parker picks up on the man’s confidence and the lady’s anxiety. Because of how she treats him in general, he has the idea that he must protect her – almost as though she is a resource belonging to him. It is one of the consequences of allowing a dog to call all the shots – in a way the son would never be allowed to.
Parker mostly gets attention under his own terms, and one of the best attention-getters is to steal a shoe! There is then a lot of chasing with three humans trying to corner him. A great game. See him on the right with a slipper? We ignored him so he lay down with it!
A dog full of his own importance may be more precious about his own personal space. A dog used to being in control may feel fear when forced into a position where he lacks control. The recent visit to the vet was a fiasco and in the end he had to be sedated in order for the vet to give him the kennel cough dose up his nose (when the gentleman alone has taken him to the vet he has been a lot calmer).
Parker is a teenager and like human teenagers he needs rules and boundaries presented to him in a kind and positive way. He needs to be rewarded for good behaviour and not reinforced with attention for bad behaviour. His people need to be consistent – to stick to their guns. In the past plump little Parker has been lavished with food, treats and even fed from their own plates. If we were showered with money, would we bother to work for it? It’s the same with attention. If attention is always freely on tap, why should the dog take notice when we need him to do something for us. By rationing attention somewhat, giving it more under our own terms, we become more valued and relevant.