When I visited these two dogs today I expected the problem to be the Clumber Spaniel Casper, one year of age, jumping up, mouthing and generally too excitable. What I actually ‘read’ from the dogs when I got there was a different story altogether. OK, Casper did jump up, but with zero reinforcement that should be easy to stop given time. He was very excited and jumpy initially, but within quite a short time of getting nothing out of it at all from me, he was the model of a calm well-behaved dog (with just the occasional lapse to make sure!).
No, the real poblems were their ‘play’ together escalating too quickly into something that could turn nasty, and Casper’s recall not being reliable enough when they met other people (whom he wanted to jump all over!). The reason soon became apparent. He was being subtly intimidated by Roxy, the bulldog.
They had thought that it was Casper who goaded Roxy into play, but it started off several times while I was there – mostly when the dogs became a little stirred up by either somebody getting up and moving about, or something outside to bark at, or even when Roxy wanted attention and couldn’t get it. They hadn’t recognised it, but it’s Roxy who is the initiator. She stared at Casper who tried to ignore her. She then pushed her bulldoggy nose onto him. Then she would stand back and wait for her tactics to take effect and Casper to fire up. I never actually saw it get further than this to the stage where Casper was pushed to retaliate because it didn’t feel quite ‘right’, so I stepped in just as another dog would, in silence splitting them up before it got any further.
It was impossible to ask Casper to come, sit or lie down because he has to defer to Roxy who may be either in the way or eyeballing him. If they are given bones, it has to be three, because Roxy has to take Casper’s and can only cope with two! On a walk, Casper is less likely to come back if Roxy is in the way or if she is somewhere else. When they hear a noise, Roxy again is the initiator. One single bark is enough to start Casper off while he looks around anxiously to see what on earth he is meant to be barking at! I suspect some of Caspers excitability is due to stress caused by being torn between Roxy’s controlling behaviour and his wanting to cooperate with the owners. To me he appeared a little anxious – trying to obey Roxy whilst pleasing them.
With Roxy being relieved of her duties in the kindest way, with Casper learning that nobody, ever, reinforces his jumping up, and by working on his recall so that when they do meet people on walks he looks to them, not Roxy, and comes back rather than rushing up leaping all over them, life for everyone will be easier.