I visited Monty 18 months ago and he was something of a puppy nightmare – see here for his story back then: http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=2778.
Following instructions, Monty and his family were doing so well that bit by bit they departed from our plan, thinking it no longer necessary. Gradually his old problems returned, and instead of going back to the plan which had worked so well before, they have been ‘listening to people’ and ‘looking on the internet’ (one suggestion given to the young adult daughter was to stare him out which is an extremely aggressive and confrontational thing for one dog to do to another and which I would never, ever do with a dog).
Monty has been receiving a lot of confusing mixed messages.
Things have now have reached crisis point. Monty attacked the daughter twice last week; he is highly stressed. He growls constantly which is ignored as ‘not serious’. Unwittingly it’s being reinforced with lots of attention and the poor dog is now totally confused. He’s a mix of wilful and anxious – he jumped at me, nipped and humped me when I arrived, apparently because I was taking no notice of him; he is very persistent in getting his own way. We put him on harness and lead. He settled down. Later, he growled and lunged at the daughter; he was really scared afterwards and all I did was to silently lead him away.
We looked in detail at events that led up to each of the attacks and exactly what happened afterwards; these two areas need carefully working on against a backdrop of respecting his efforts to communicate, and taking as much general pressure off him as possible.
Monty never has liked invasion of his space; his growls are always ignored. One of the attacks happened on a day when he was already probably over-stimulated by other things and after he had been approached and touched in his bed – despite his warnings. He can’t talk, after all. Soon afterwards the daughter bent over to touch him. Explosion. What more can a dog do when he’s never listened to?
Because of how he was when I first met him aged 5 months, I just wonder whether there may be a touch of ‘Cocker rage’ – just enough for him to ‘unpredictably’ fly off the handle if his stress levels are sufficiently high. Should this be the case it’s even more important that his humans are consistent and whilst giving consistent rules and boundaries they are also respectful of his needs.
When things go pear shaped it’s usually because owners have been treating behaviour modification a bit like giving antibiotic for an infection and once clear the medication stops. They need to regard it more like insulin – something that has to be administered for the rest of his life for a permanent condition.
So, it’s back to square one with Monty, and always harder the second time around.