Yesterday I met a nearly trouble-free dog. Usually dogs that have a problem in one area have other issues across the board. Not Lady.
Lady is a French Bulldog and she has lived with the young couple for just four weeks.
Four years old, she’s had at least one litter of puppies and two homes, the first with a breeder. She is so little trouble that it’s hard to understand why her second home gave her up.
She calmly welcomed me as I arrived, having a good sniff of my trousers like most dogs do – finding out all about my own four dogs!
She jumped on the sofa beside me, pawing a little for some fuss. I loved her and then gave her something to chew.
She is no trouble during the night, quietly sleeping in her crate.
Despite being no trouble when they leave her, if it’s for more than four hours they get a dog walker to break up the day.
This little dog has really landed on her feet.
Lady has never shown any aggression. She loves being groomed and she travels well in the car.
Their dog gives them so little trouble so why did they need me?
Two areas impact greatly upon their lives.
Lady becomes very agitated when she sees another dog. Her hackles rise as she pulls against her collar and short lead. She tries to escape. When they get near, she screams.
They try to ignore it and walk on but find Lady’s behaviour very embarrassing.
Like many people, they don’t think of looking at it from the dog’s point of view or giving the dog her own choices. Watching Cesar Millan, in fact, has told them to do the opposite.
Further dog trouble comes in the form of a dog that lives behind the back fence. This dog, though only sniffing under the fence or lying beside it, drives Lady mad. She charges back and forth, barking.
The other issue is the vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming is impossible without Lady going mental. She hates it and would like to kill it. The young lady has an immaculate house and being able to vacuum is very important.
Little Lady is such a biddable dog that I know that both issues that trouble them all can be dealt with fairly easily given time and patience.
Distance and building positive associations
The will use systematic desensitising and counter-conditioning.
With walks they will start from scratch. Instead of walking Lady mostly around the roads on a short lead and collar (she escaped her harness when near a dog), they will get a different harness and a much longer lead.
Instead of trying to make her walk ‘nicely’, they will now allow her to do what she wants within reason.
Mooching. She can stop when she likes; she can stop to peer under cars or to hang back on a sniff.
When they get to somewhere open they will change the lead for a long line. Currently she is missing out on the wonderful variety of enrichment available to a doggy nose.
Now, comfortable and relaxed, she will be able to cope a lot better with other dogs they meet.
However, this isn’t enough. Over time they will help Lady to trust them to keep at a comfortable distance from other dogs. No longer will they force her to keep walking.
At the very first sign of discomfort on Lady’s part, they will increase distance. They will be upbeat and cheerful like they are pleased to see the dog. From this comfortable distance they will feed her.
The walk won’t be from A to B. It will happen as it happens.
They will approach the vacuuming problem using the same principals. We broke down the issue into tiny increments and they will deal with each separately, one at a time, before passing on to the next.
This is our plan:
- Open and shut the cupboard door where the vacuum cleaner lives, dropping food as you do so. Leave it open.
- Stand the vacuum cleaner in the sitting room but don’t touch it.
- Let Lady discover food in it or on it (don’t let her see you put it there).
- Stand still and hold it
- Slowly move it – not turned on
- Use distance. Let her hear it from the garden with one of you feeding her.
- Turn it on but don’t move it.
- Turn it on and move slowly etc. etc
- As you vacuum, throw food on the ground ahead of where you are vacuuming. And so on…….
Lady should soon have no trouble with the vacuum cleaner. Because it triggers tiny bits of chicken she will mostly likely come to love it.
The dog behind the fence? When the dog is out, good things happen. The dog triggers play and food with Lady on lead at a comfortable distance from the fence.