An Excitable English Bull Terrier
The afternoon consisted of calm, affectionate moments with the lovely Ty punctuated with fresh attempts to jump all over me – which can be uncomfortable when a dog stands beside you on the sofa, licking your face and trying to nip your ear! Understandably nobody likes this, but if telling him off worked he wouldn’t be doing it any more.
The twenty month old English Bull Terrier didn’t have a good start in life. His first year was with two older, larger dogs and it seems he had to fight for his food and has injuries to show for it. He was very underweight when they got him.
When he was strong enough they had him castrated, a requirement of most rescues, and from that moment Ty, who had previously been absolutely fine with other dogs despite his early months, became fearful and reactive. Castration doesn’t always have positive effects behaviourally – the reduction in testosterone possibly taking away some of his mojo.
The very excitable Ty lives with the most easy-going Golden Labrador – Amber, age two. They get on famously. The couple’s excellent dog parenting that had worked so well with happy and well-mannered Amber has helped Ty a lot over the past eight months, but they are still struggling. His excitability means he’s a bit unpredictable. His jumping up is a bit crazy, his licking of people a bit manic, he barks at ‘everything’, he sometimes tail-chases when particularly frustrated and he is obsessed with balls. He has shown his wariness to one man in particular by snarling at him. On walks he is anxious around other dogs and they hold him tight – not trusting him. They do join a group ‘bully’ walk of a large group of local bull-breeds. Once the group is on the move, his lead comes off and he is fine.
I feel the unpredictability and excitement need working on at home before they will make much headway when out. It’s not like there is one single problem, though their main wish is to be able to enjoy walks and trust him to come back to them when other dogs are about.
If Ty doesn’t pay attention to them at home, he won’t do so when out. They will work hard at getting and holding his attention – using food. They will be surprised how much more motivated he will become when they use tiny bits of tasty real food as reinforcement. If he doesn’t come immediately or do as asked at home, then he certainly won’t come back when out on walks. Again – it’s a matter of motivation. If he doesn’t see them as his protectors at home, then he won’t do so when they are out. Everything is interconnected.
Excitement builds up. The jumping, licking, nipping and so on should simply not get results, but when he’s in this sort of mood his excitement should be redirected onto something more acceptable that will help to calm him – like an item to chew or some foraging for food outside.
Walks will only really improve when he learns that they go nowhere until he is calm – so this will take a lot of patience and waiting so he’s no longer so excitable when they leave. They will now help him to gain his confidence at whatever distance he needs to be from other dogs he sees in order to feel comfortable.
He’s a young dog. They have come a long way already and it can only continue to get better.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ty, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).