Cockerpoo Buster’s lady owner is the winner of my Facebook group competition:  “Me and my owner should win a free 1-2-1 because….”

‘Buster’ wrote, “I deserve a chance with a loving family after I have had 4 homes that didn’t want me”.

I soon found out that six-year-old Buster was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated after having been rejected four times. 

He was with his first family for five years but he growled and possibly snapped when their baby began to crawl.

A friend of theirs took him but apparently one of the children pulled his tail and he ‘went for’ the child.

Next he was with someone else for just a fortnight and ended up in a foster home. Their male dog didn’t like him so, again, he was up for another home.

All in all there are several issues but none severe. The lady has already made some very good progress in the six month’s she has had him but now, in my opinion, needs a change of direction.


Worst issue may be the nipping. He has snapped at the teenage daughter a couple of times when on her bed while she’s doing her schoolwork. One instance is she reached towards him to pick up pen and he bit her hand.

Buster couldn’t know what she was reaching for. For all he knew, her hand was suddenly coming to touch him like almost certainly a child’s hand will have done in the past. It will have been an automatic reaction.

Then he will have been scolded.

Now the girl will work on a little exercise of getting his attention first so when she’s reaching out it’s not sudden. There will be food in her hand. 

Over time Buster can learn that her hands, or sudden hands, are good news not bad.

Being the Boss

A ‘traditional’ assumption that the lady has picked up is the outdated idea that she should be boss and that the dog shouldn’t go in front of her. Buster has to wait at the top of the stairs and let her go down first. Not a bad idea generally but not to because she’s the boss.

Using dominance of any kind is not a good idea when dealing with aggressive behaviours.

She seldom uses rewards when asking Buster to do something.

Changing some of their expectations along with increasing positive reinforcement should make life easier out on walks. 

Buster barks and pulls 

When he’s even a short distance ahead the lady says ‘Heel’ and pulls him back in order to show him she’s boss. (Like many people, she’s labelling being ahead with the word Heel so telling him the opposite of what she wants him to do!).

Buster is absolutely fine with other dogs when off lead. It’s when he’s on lead that he reacts and barks. He won’t take food.

Instead of holding him tight, keeping walking towards the approaching dog and trying to get him to look at her, she can be less regimented. They will spot the dog and immediately relax the lead and increase distance. Then Buster will take food, I’m sure.

So long as the other dog is on lead (Buster can be possessive over his ball), he could carry a ball in his mouth. This has a calming effect on him.

All in all, walks will be happier and less stressful for both Buster and the lady. She can forget about being ‘the boss’.

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