The two Cocker Spaniels now refuse to go out with the dog walker
Why do the two dogs refuse to go out with their new dog walker?
They were fine for the first few days, six weeks ago. Then first Charlie and then Oscar simply went on strike. They refused to go out with her anymore.
The two beautiful Cocker Spaniels are siblings, nine-and-a-half years of age.
The dogs’ refusal to walk could be due to one thing or to a combination of things. Without being able to find out for sure, we need to cover all the angles.
Lovely off-lead walks
The dog walker, a gentle and kind lady who is a friend rather than a professional dog walker, is understandably upset. They live on a farm with lots of surrounding land, so walks are all off lead.
The problem probably began after the dog walker had taken them on a longer, different route to the one they were accustomed.
After the first few days they would no longer even go out of the gate with the dog walker.
Could something have perhaps happened to scare them, something the dog walker had been unware of? An unusual sound perhaps?
With chat and questions I found out a bit about the dogs’ daily life with the lady. She works from home and, well before lockdown, the dogs had been with her much of the time.
For the past four years she herself had always walked them, off lead around the farmland. They may have been joined by other dogs that live there as well.
We looked at what being walked by someone else, not the lady, might mean from the dogs’ perspective.
Daily routine and ritual
One of the first things the lady told me was how they all liked living to a routine.
The dog walker however will just arrive and let her self in, somewhere around lunchtime.
So, my first suggestion is to build in a new routine around her arrival. The dog walker can be a bit more precise about the time she arrives so that the lady will build up some anticipation.
I suggested a ritual where the lady fetches their collars from where they are usually kept and puts them on a chair. Then, five minutes later and a good fifteen minutes before the dog walker is due to arrive she will put the collars on the dogs.
They know what their collars mean! A walk! Now they will wait.
The dog walker will arrive, ring the bell before she uses the key and (unlike previously), make very little fuss of the dogs. She and the lady can have a coffee and chat. The walker will go again.
The dog walker comes – but no walk?
The dogs will probably now think, ‘What no walk?’
I then suggest after a few days when the dogs have settled into this particular new routine, that the dog walker scatter-feeds them their lunch outside, between the house and the gate.
She can daily move a bit further away until she’s standing outside in the road, throwing food back to the dogs.
I’m sure the dogs will gain confidence but it’s important that whether it’s ten yards or a hundred yards, the dog walker turns around and comes home before either dog refuses to walk.
No pressure. The lady stays in the house meanwhile.
It’s just possible that the dogs, who are quite protective of the boundary of their home, may not now feel safe outside in the ‘wide world’ without their lady owner. They may even feel protective of her – or that they need her for their own protection.
The lady will work on their reactivity at the boundary, building up their confidence.
With routine in mind, I suggest the lady draws the dog walker a map and she follows exactly the same route for a while. To start with, when the dogs begin to accompany her again she will turn for home after just a few yards and gradually build up from there.
Let the dogs want more!
I did have one more cunning plan. The lady is temporarily fostering another dog. I asked her how Oscar and Charlie would feel if the dog walker took the other dog out and not them.
The lady said ‘jealous’.
It’s worth giving it a go – just a very short few minutes. The aim isn’t to make Oscar and Charlie suffer but to see a value in going out with the dog walker.
For four weeks now the lady and the dog walker have both fruitlessly persuaded, bribed and cajoled the dogs to go out with the dog walker. It’s too much pressure.
Now the plan is to give them the message that nobody particularly wants them to walk with the dog walker. It’s their choice. They can take it or leave it.
Soon they will take it, I’m certain!
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