Jet is a nine-year-old black Working Cocker Spaniel – much like my own Pickle.
There are two things which led to our meeting:
Jet’s fear of the lead. He has bitten several times when the man tries to put on his lead.
He also resource guards.
Questions revealed things weren’t quite what they may seem.
When Jet was a puppy the man would take him for a walk along a lane where the traffic came too close and terrified Jet. He’s been fearful of traffic ever since.
He’s fine when the lady puts on his lead and harness. She never took him on this route.
The resource guarding is only when he has nicked something. He only steals something when he’s feeling aroused or frustrated. Goading them into chasing him to get it off him is fulfilling something he’s needing. He never guards his food – nor toys or bones.
Targeting the real problems
So what we are actually dealing with is not fear of the lead as such, but fear of what it represents – and only when held by the man. The puppy’s terror at a sensitive time in his development also infected walking with the man who was with him at the time – and the lead when predicting a road walk with the man.
We aren’t dealing with resource guarding as such, but Jet’s arousal and need for fulfilment or action. So we looked at what they can do about reducing unnecessary arousal and replacing some activities with others that use his brain, jaw, mouth and nose.
Fear of the lead
Jet’s fear of the lead needs to be broken down into the main elements: fear of the lead itself, removing its association with going out near traffic, and dealing with the cause of the problem – Jet’s fear of traffic.
Jet is perfectly happy when allowed to leave the house to jump in the car when the man drives him to a field. He’s happy for the man to put on his harness and lead in the car.
When the man picks it up in the house he will avoid and run away. When the man then uses force, Jet will growl. He has bitten several times. Once out of the house, he refuses to move.
One thing at a time
The first step is to help Jet to feel comfortable around the lead, without putting it on. The man will use food – Jet loves his food.
Only when Jet is ready will he attach the lead to the collar. Next he will walk around the house and garden only. After a while the lead should no longer predict going out near to traffic.
Meanwhile his daily walks will be by car.
Now they traffic itself needs working on. They usually go out of the front door but will now use the garden gate, removing existing negative associations.
At the open gate and on a long lead, they will work on passing traffic. The lead will be long enough that Jet can run back into the garden if he’s scared.
The cars aren’t very frequent, so whenever one goes past the man will drop bits of food on the ground. A car triggers a food hunt.
Over time Jet will venture further but it will completely his own choice. The walks should be ‘Jet walks’. Where safe to do so, he should choose where to go and when to go home.
All other walks meanwhile should start in the car and avoid traffic until he’s ready, however long that takes.
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