The eighteen-month-old Miniature Dachshund flies at people’s feet and bites their shoes.
Little Sugar is extremely jumpy.
He seems also to be on constant protection duty – seemingly guarding both himself and the lady and gentleman too.
This is scary for the tiny dog, so it’s a mixture of emotions.
Imagine being so small and being approached by a tall, looming human with feet almost as big as yourself!
It’s little wonder he attacks and bites shoes.
Think how it might be for ourselves. If we’d just had a sudden fright, we would then be much more jumpy for a while. It could take a long time, if things kept alarming us, to get back to how we were.
Basic to everything is to keep Sugar’s arousal and stress levels down. From a calmer base he will be able to cope better to what general life throws at him, particularly anything sudden.
Calming him includes cutting out exciting play like chasing him around the garden and anything too repetitive. It also means keeping him away from things that scare him like the lawn mower or window cleaner.
Even fussing him in a high or excited voice causes unnecessary arousal in an already highly-strung dog.
Sugar was fine until about four months ago when he was found to have a disease – now successfully treated. He may have been sickening for it and feeling off colour. This is when his behaviour began to change.
Another thorough vet check now would be advisable.
Yes, Sugar flies at people and bites shoes, but this is not the real problem. It’s a symptom. We need to work on the cause.
In Sugar’s case I believe it’s a build-up of several things. I see it a bit like jigsaw with several bits missing. All the little pieces of the ‘jigsaw’ that I suggest, though individually making little difference, when all pieced together should begin to have an effect. They include diet, play, how they handle callers to the house, how they respond when he alarm barks, how people approach him and more.
As well as keeping that ‘stress bucket‘ as low as possible by avoiding certain things, there are things they can add that will help him to de-stress or decompress.
These things involve sniffing, foraging and much more enrichment from the environment. Enrichment is important. To my mind this doesn’t mean they need to be constantly entertaining him but regular activities that he can do for himself including working for his food.
Due to his anxiety, Sugar has had a break from walks for a while. Now it’s time to very gradually get him back out into the real world. This is necessary if he’s not to be hyper-sensitive to every sound he hears from outside. A little more bomb-proof.
They will do it very slowly indeed. He can begin by simply, on a long loose line, wandering and sniffing around the front garden and driveway for very short sessions. At any sign of stress or anxiety, they will take him back in again.
Both through questioning the couple and observing Sugar for myself, I could see that he’s best when (like many dogs) a person is already in the place, preferably sitting, before he joins them.
He finds a person more threatening when entering an area where he is already. This is particularly if he’s already over-aroused, stressed or jumpy. Then, seemingly out of the blue, he flies at them and bites shoes.
When sitting, a sudden movement may trigger him to fly again at feet.
When they have put some of the pieces of my jigsaw in place we will see better what bits are still missing and need working on.