easily becomes angryBuddy’s angry behaviour has escalated in the last few weeks.

The ten-month-old French Bulldog snorts and gasps. His common Frenchie breathing problem (Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome – BOAS) must make normal life a constant struggle.

If he were an adolescent human struggling to breathe, Buddy could well have a very short fuse, ready to hit out, angry at the smallest thing. Buddy will be having surgery.

Child, toys, an excited dog

I walked into chaos, much of it caused by my own arrival. They took me into the sitting room where their little daughter, age two, was surrounded by toys – and Buddy.

He flew all over the place like a little round tornado – charged up behind me on the sofa and careered past the little girl. He frantically grabbed and chewed her toys.

Everything was clearly all too much for him.

I was there because he has become increasingly angry and snappy at people. Buddy can’t tolerate anyone manhandling him or physically making him do something he doesn’t want. He is particularly upset when the man battles to put on his harness.

He has nipped the little girl twice now.

Weird things make him angry

Some strange things upset Buddy.  A growing list of triggers make him angry and probably a bit scared as well.

It’s puzzling.

I worked out a chain. Over the past few weeks one has led to the next.

It began with the man (not the lady) cleaning. When he wiped the counter and cupboards in the kitchen, Buddy became very excited. That was the start.

The act of the man waving his arm whilst polishing fired Buddy up into  a frenzy of leaping up and grabbing his arm. Bit by bit Buddy became angry at the cloth alone.

Then his reactions spread to the surface itself. (I moved a sheet of paper on the counter and he leapt to nip my arm).

Then it became the high-chair tray. It was the man again. When he releases the tray to wipe it, Buddy erupts into a frenzy.  The problem has now even spread to when the lady touches or lifts it.

Keeping the little girl safe

I worry that it may only take a combination of things that trouble or make Buddy angry for him to explode and really bite the little girl.

It’s important now that all the time dog and child are together, they actively watch. It’s not enough just to be in the same room. I saw Buddy in the kitchen where nobody else could see him. The child went up behind him and gently pulled him backwards. He snapped in her direction.

Why just supervising dogs and children doesn’t work.

Why did all the angry behaviour and the grabbing of clothes start with the man?  He will also grab the man’s trousers and shake.

Only the man has encouraged jumping up and grabbing with hands-on vigorous games that involve over-excitement, using teeth and pulling. Many people believe this is great fun and that the dog loves it; it can also make some dogs over-aroused, lacking in self-control – and angry.

Consequently Buddy’s most angry behaviour has been directed at the man. Our dogs reflect us to a large extent, so behaving only calmly with Buddy will have a big effect.

Avoid exposure to things that make him angry

They must do all they can to prevent further rehearsal and exposing him to the things that make him angry.  This will mean making more use of the gate at mealtimes and, when they are cleaning, putting Buddy out of the way.

Better enrichment will help him too. Having more healthy things to occupy his mind should help not him not to become angry so easily. This includes working for some of his food and daily very short and stress-free walks. Currently they don’t walk him regularly due to his reactivity to other dogs.

Now during the day Buddy will remain behind the kitchen gate while the little girl and her toys are in the sitting room. They can let him in there when she’s in bed and they have picked up the toys.

We looked at ways of working on his phobia of the cloth, wiping movements and high chair tray.

Apart from keeping the little girl safe, helping Buddy to become a calmer dog is the first priority.  The sooner the vet can operate to relieve his breathing, the better.

Six weeks later: It was like sitting down in a different house! The little girl had her toys out and Buddy was watching us quietly from behind a gate in the kitchen. After a while I knelt on the floor and said hello to him through the gate.  The grabbing behaviours and strange anger when they wiped surfaces has now ceased. The couple have followed our plan carefully.
Buddy is booked in to the vet hospital next week to relieve his breathing problems.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good sometimes. Every dog is different and every situation is different. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)