Border Collie mix that growls and barks at the boy They have had four-year-old Ben for about three weeks now and he is settling in quite well, though as time goes by he is becoming increasingly reactive to anyone coming in the front door.

He stops barking when he sees the person is family – apart from the son, age twelve. He is a quiet, thoughtful boy and desperately wants to share cuddles with the dog like his sister does, so when Ben growls and barks at him it is upsetting for him and the whole family. When the child walks in the door, Ben may growl, bark and sometimes even curl his lips. He has also snapped at him.

Ben came over from Ireland where he lived on a farm, and has since been in a foster home and also kennels. He has a lot of adjusting to do. All they have been told about him is that the original home had a disabled son, and Ben used to try to round up the boy’s friends.

I am pretty sure that Ben has been punished around boys of a certain age – probably physically. He now associates them with bad stuff and is probably showing the true reason he was given up. It is a clear example of the bad fallout from punishment causing fear and aggression. There are other indications that the dog will have been punished for things. For instance, his recall is usually very good, but if he is chasing something and comes back late, he cowers and won’t come right up to them – and may even take himself off to the field gate and wait there.

He has a wonderful home now, and the purpose of my visit is primarily for boy and dog to build up a good relationship. Other issues are around the front door and lunging at traffic.

The boy will work on his own body language. He may be a bit timid with Ben which the dog will certainly pick up on. I suggested he tried modelling himself on Superman! He will play hard to get for a while – no trying to persuade Ben to be friends. He will sometimes feed Ben.

I gave him a clicker and showed him how to use it. This will enable Ben to do things for the click rather than directly for the boy which should take the pressure of both of them. The boy will also help with doorbell work – so much ringing that Ben becomes desensitised! The dog will learn to go into the kitchen when he hears the bell and associate it (and later anybody coming in) with food (nice stuff).

I am sure the two will soon start to build a very solid and trusting boy/dog relationship.