The lady, when I asked what the problem was, gave just two words:

‘Broken trust’.

This is so sad. She is an experienced dog owner who has put a lot of love and effort into helping and training her rescue Springer Spaniel, Jack. They have come a long way in about five months.

Yesterday morning, if he hadn’t been muzzled, Jack would have bitten her.

Knowing that he didn’t like being handled unless under his own terms and this includes grooming, she had been as careful as she could.

The problem was that Jack has a bad ear infection. Getting him happy to be touched is a long job and drops had to go into his ear immediately and daily.

With her friend feeding Jack through the muzzle, she had managed to get the drops in for a couple of days. Yesterday she was trying to do it by herself.

Jack exploded.

In the evening she took Jack back to the vet and very fortunately the vet has put something in his ear that won’t need repeating.

Now they have bought some time.

They will work hard on getting Jack’s consent.

This will require giving him choice. They can introduce more choice into his general daily life.

They will work specifically on his allowing them to touch him. It will need to be done very slowly and gradually.

He will be shown a way to tell them when to stop and when they can start again.

They will use the Bucket Game.

In essence, while he looks at the ‘bucket’, a small pot of food in front of him, the lady will gently touch him – and feed. As soon as he looks away from the bucket, she will remove her hand.

He will soon learn that when he looks away from the bucket, she will remove her hand.

This will give Jack choice and control.

Over time she will work her way to touching his ears, lifting them. Introducing touching him with an ear-drop bottle, touch under his ear with the bottle.

All these things will only happen while he is looking at the bucket. As soon as he looks away, she backs off.

Jack’s now has choice.

He will no longer have to use aggression to keep the lady away from touching him. He will have a method of communication that she understands and takes notice of. He won’t need to growl or give warnings.

With choice will come even greater mutual trust.

A week later. Great news!
“As you know, I was really down about the situation with Jack. He is a lovely dog but I felt as things were, I could not look after him.

The meeting with you was very constructive. You questioned, listened and helped without judgement. You gave me the tools and confidence to try different things for my dog and my situation and when I had to ask for your help again the next day, you made me feel that Jack is as important to you as to me.

Thank you so much, Theo. I will not hesitate to come back to you for another meeting if I need more help with Jack’s other issues.”

There is a lot more to it than I have written here. It’s part of a ‘bigger picture’. If you have a dog that can’t be easily touched and would like help, book an online consultation where I will look into your dog’s ‘bigger picture’ and show you how to teach consent and choice.

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