Two days ago I visited Ollie, a black Labrador, who is three years old. From the moment he went to live with his family as a puppy he attached himself to their older Labrador, Zac, in preference to the humans. Zac was a confident dog and Ollie was very reliant upon him. Zac was confident with other dogs out on walks and Ollie felt protected.
Sadly, a couple of months ago Zac died. Only then did it become apparent just how reliant on him Ollie had been. His confidence collapsed. He developed separation problems, crying and howling when left alone. On walks without Zac’s calming influence he now lunges and yelps when he sees another dog.
Quite naturally the family have been compensating for his distress which has encouraged other unwanted behaviours like barking for attention and over-attachment.
Maisie is a calm and stable puppy which is fortunate. Having now got used to her, Ollie feels he owns her. He won’t let her out of his sight without stressing – just like he does his lady owner. When Maisie has been taken out Ollie seems to almost panic, and when she is brought back he barks at her – scolding her like one might a child who had wandered off in a supermarket. Since Zac died he has taken on on guard duty, with a lot of barking at passing people and noises. The family fear that he will soon start to influence Maisie’s behaviour also.
Poor Ollie, with a completely different temperament to Zac, simply can’t cope with taking over his role. This is a job for his humans. They are going to tighten up with the rules and boundaries which will make him feel more secure. They will cut down his opportunities to be on lookout duty. They will gain control over food. They will relieve him of so much decision-making. They will make walks more enjoyable for Ollie and for themselves by approaching walking and meeting dogs in a different way.
Ollie is a beautiful dog with a sensitive nature who needs to be given confidence. This is not done by spoiling him. He is now getting calm, consistent and confident leadership from his family members and they are seeing a change already.