I have been to mansions to help with dogs and I have been to tiny flats. Yesterday I went to a houseboat on a marina. I couldn’t believe how spacious it was, like walking through a little door into another world.
I met a beautiful little Westie called Snoopy (a female Snoopy!). She is 21 months old.
The couple have never had a dog before. They carefully researched dog ownership and have done a very good job. Sometimes circumstances can work against us. Snoopy’s start in life wasn’t ideal in that she had no socialisation until about nine weeks old, and when she eventually went to puppy classes she was so scared she disrupted the class with her yelping vocalisings that they had to give up. This was not a good first encounter with other dogs, and will have been to do with how the class was handled, too much noise, and too many dogs including some whose own behaviour will have been scary to a tiny Westie puppy.
Now Snoopy is wary and reactive to many dogs, and recently went for a dog that jumped up at her gentleman owner – she may have been protecting him. She can be a bit scared of people as well. She makes her screaming vocalisations at certain things like the sound of the venetian blinds being raised or the window opening. One of the reasons I was called was her reaction to animals on TV. She barks, lunges and snarls and is so stressed and hyped up that she may even, uncharacteristically, go for them if they take her collar to remove her. This makes peaceful evenings watching telly rather difficult! Besides, it builds up Snoopy’s stress levels and it’s a vicious circle. Stressed by barking, she is more ready to bark.
Much of the time Snoopy is an obedient, relaxed and happy little dog. She is given sensible rules and boundaries. It is only on the protection front that she seems not to quite trust her owners and thinks she needs to do the job herself, so leadership needs tightening up. She needs to be shown that it’s not her job to worry about animals on TV, nor other dogs on walks. This means the couple will need to ‘think dog’. A good leader/parent would protect the pack/family and never lead them into trouble. So, on walks, a different strategy needs to be used around other dogs. The walk itself needs to be a calmer and more comfortable affair. Pulling frantically on lead must be so uncomfortable for her little neck that she will already be in a heightened state when she meets a dog.
Her frantic TV behaviour needs a patient and consistent approach, again – ‘thinking dog’. Why is she doing this? What would a kind and wise leader do in her eyes?
In every other respect Snoopy is the perfect dog for life on a boat.