Heidi who I saw a couple of days ago came from Ireland and was probably terrier mixed with Collie, and Ben I saw today was also shipped over from Ireland, as a puppy, and may be the same mix if more terrier than Collie. Both dogs are reactive and scared of dogs and people, especially when out, and both live with an older, larger dog. Ben lives with eight-year-old Chocolate Labrador Billy.
As you can see, Ben is lovely. He is affectionate and biddable though can be anxious and over-excited. He is three years old.
Ben barks and hackles at people he doesn’t know entering the house, men mainly, and at people he sees when out. Like Heidi he may rush at them and nip them. Ben’s reactivity to other dogs is spoiling walks. He will bark and lunge. It is obvious that he feels threatened, and simply wants them to go away.
When left alone at home, he is anxious – destroying things and raiding the bin. He has damaged the sofa.
A dog needs to believe in his owners as leaders, I see it like a good teacher with a class of children on a walk. They will stay with the teacher. They won’t be running off in front and they won’t be yelling and shouting at passers by, telling them rudely to get lost (I hope!). They trust the teacher to make the decisions and keep them safe. If the owners can convince the dog that they are good leaders – and this has to happen at home as well as out on walks – then the dog can relax and stop stressing. It takes time of course.
Too often people make things worse by tightening the lead and forcing the dog forward towards what he perceives as danger. They compound the problem by being tense and anxious or scolding the dog. If there were genuine danger, our teacher would not lead his class directly into it, would he? If he did, he would soon lose their trust and they may well run away from him. If the danger was not genuine, then it would be his job to convince the children that they were safe. He would be calm and in control. So it is with us and our dogs.