His good points far outweight the difficulties. He is biddable, friendly and not overly excitable.
The problems they are having with Alfie are, like so many, out on walks. Alfie barks at people in a worrying manner. As they live in a village it’s impossible for them to stop and talk to anyone. He ‘squares up’ to other dogs they meet, though hasn’t shown aggression as such. A couple of incidents when he was off lead took them by surprise so they are now wary.
Anticipating problems transfers down the lead to the dog and merely reinforces his fears that other dogs and people could mean trouble. Correcting or using force when he does react doubly reinforces his fears by associating discomfort and stress with other dogs.
What is the alternative, you may ask? We look at it through the eyes of the dog!
Dog training classes can be too stressful for many reactive dogs because they are thrown into the deep end where proximity to other dogs is concerned. It can be noisy and there may be other reactive and scared dogs. I have been there and I have done it. The whole thing needs to be taken back to basics and done differently.
People worry about ‘socialising’. If a dog isn’t adequately socialised with well-balanced dogs in the early weeks when he is naturally friendly and playful, it is much more difficult. Plunging a dog into threatening situations to ‘force him out of it’ is, at best, unkind. The dog needs to be gently stretched in a controlled fashion in order to improve, and learn to trust you to understand him and to be on his side. You may never end up with a ‘sociable’ dog that wants to go and play with other dogs, but a dog that ignores them and is happy to be with you instead.
Most dogs who are a problem on walks are over-excited before they leave the house. Not so Alfie. He is calm as they leave the house and can walk nicely when there are no distractions. He is halfway there already.