Ethel can be two different dogs.
She is friendly and confident around people when out of the house whether she knows them or not. She enjoys visits to a cafe and days at daycare.
At home the young Cockerpoo is a different dog.
At home Ethel feels insecure.
It’s all to do with people. She barks at people passing the front – ‘Go Away’ – successfully. In the evening, outside in the garden, she barks even more frantically at sounds the neighbours make.
She ignores all calls to get her in.
So, for now they will only let her out in the evening on a Flexilead. She feels insecure so they must help her. They can reassure her she’s safe straight away – and get her in.
Feeling unsafe is why she barked at me so persistently when I arrived. Barking is what she does. She is able to constantly fuel and rehearse the problem by barking at people to go away. She barks at the window and she barks at anything coming through the door. If she goes on for long enough, they always do go away.
I, however, was sitting down and staying put! Ethel barked.
She isn’t interested in any food and that is part of the problem. They can’t motivate her to do even the simplest of things for them.
I was called to help address her resource-guarding problem. We can’t, however, isolate the resource guarding problem from other issues.
Insecure dogs commonly resource-guard.
Ethel is only interested in guarding something she knows they won’t want her to have. Why? It has to be that their reaction is somehow reinforcing to her.
They mostly try to retrieve the item using either force or bribery. She’s having none of it.
From now on they should avoid ‘playing her game’. She must get nothing out of it at all by way of attention. As she seldom damages the item, there is little risk. As soon as she has something and gives them ‘that look’, like a challenge, they should walk straight out of the room and shut the door.
When they return they must ignore the item. They should not pick it up at all until she is somewhere else.
(If by chance it’s something that could harm her, emergency measures would have to be taken. As this would severely set things back, they want to check the environment carefully).
Because she feels insecure when any other person is near their home, Ethel’s relationship with the lady and gentleman is very important. She needs full confidence in them.
Ethel is calling all the shots!
Putting this into the context of a human child, the parent should make the main decisions, be the protector, the provider and so on. Ethel, a dog, won’t be seeing her humans much in this light.
They leave food down all the time for her, so it has no value. They need food in order to motivate her. At the moment they have nothing to ‘pay’ her with for doing as they ask. She gets fuss all the time anyway and a ball, which she likes, becomes an item to ‘possess’.
They also need to use food in order to help her when she feels insecure.
They need food for the exchange games. Their hands will now be the hands that bear gifts – not hands that take things from her.
Unable to reward her, they use trickery to bypass problems, such as ringing the doorbell to get her to drop something or going out of separate doors to trick her when they go out. This naturally makes her suspicious. Being open with her so that she is cooperative will foster trust.
There are a number of components involved in getting this dog that feels unsafe to be a more confident and relaxed dog at home. It’s important to avoid further rehearsal of unwanted behaviour whether it’s barking at passing people, stealing things for a reaction or attacking and nicking the post.
Bit by bit as they put everything in place, they should notice a change.
Here is great little article on Resource guarding and food aggression