guard dogBaloo is born to guard. His entire life centres around guarding his family. He’s ‘on duty’ all the time.

I sat down at the kitchen table and they opened the door. The most enormous dog charged towards me giving a giant rumbling WOOF.

He stopped short of me (fortunately!). He’s a lot bigger than he looks here – they say he weighs about 11 stone.

He barked at me briefly as we walked to another room but soon seemed to realise I was no threat.

The giant Bullmastiff born to guard

The huge dog spent most of the time panting and pacing. He stood for a few moments by the young man who fussed him. Every now and then he would rush in the direction of a sound of some sort, roaring the kind of bark that would deter any intruder.

Baloo really is a big softy; a big softy when not on guard alert.

Guarding is in his genes, a mix of Bullmastiff and Spanish Mastiff, so he’s born to guard. He would probably be in his element either guarding cattle somewhere in the open or with a gamekeeper guarding an estate from poachers.

Instead, he’s in a house, exhibiting the same genetic behaviours.

His family can help him to be less jumpy so that his instinct to guard is less of a burden on him.  They should do all they can to lower his stress levels. Constantly on guard duty, he will be suffering sleep-deprivation for starters.

The fun that he gets is of the wrong kind – chasing and rough play with the young man who adores him. It’s over-exciting. At the same time he has insufficient enrichment by way of sniffing, exploring, hunting and doing natural dog things.

No cuddling!

I’m sure that guarding is also at the root of Baloo’s distress when people hug or cuddle. To a dog, a human putting arms around another human could signal potential conflict. He is particularly protective of the lady in this way.

Where the big dog chooses to lie is all about guarding. He occupies doorways. A favourite spot is at the top of the stairs where he can guard the front door.

On guard, he gives warning barks at anything and everything he hears outside. They will help him out with this. They will relieve him of some of the burden of guard duty by how they react to his barking.

It’s significant that, according to the neighbours, Baloo doesn’t guard bark when he’s alone in the house. So it seems the people he is protecting in the main and not the property.

He chooses who he will walk with

Walks are a puzzle. Baloo will often flatly refuse to walk with the young man alone. Nobody else can walk him because of his size.

With the dog the size of Baloo, if he doesn’t want to do something he doesn’t do it!

He will, however, walk if the man and his mother go together.

There could be two reasons for this – only guesswork.  It’s probably due to some kind of need to guard his people and not wanting to leave the lady behind. He is most protective of her.

He will walk more willingly if any second person goes with the young man. Maybe when he has more than one person with him, he will guard where he feels most needed. He can’t guard different people in two places at once.

Secondly, in the past a couple of bangs have badly scared Baloo when out with the young man. It’s just possible he associates scary bangs with the man so an extra person makes him feel safer.

Using food

They will now use Baloo’s food to help enrich his life and to motivate him to do as they ask.

In order to help Baloo, they will pair cuddling or hugging with something he loves – food. They will set up opportunities, starting easy. Standing, one person can just move towards the other while dropping his favourite food. They can put an arm around the other person and drop more food. Gradually they can increase the hugging. They can sit and cuddle on the sofa, dropping food for the dog.

Taking it slowly is the key as well as keeping him as calm and confident as possible.

Baloo’s high anxiety and stress levels due to constantly being on guard mean he seldom relaxes. In all the two-and-a-half hours I was there, the five-year-old giant relaxed on his side for just a few minutes near the end.

He was still occupying the doorway.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. Details and names may be changed. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help