Trigger has become increasingly grumpy over the past three months. He growls more readily than he used to and has now bitten a couple of times.
They took him to the vet for a thorough check to make sure his change in behaviour wasn’t due to anything physical, and he has a clear bill of health.
Trigger and Biscuit are beautiful Dachshunds, lovely friendly little dogs, Biscuit age three and Trigger six months older. The young couple, conscientious owners, give them the best they can in terms of food, love and care.
Life has changed dramatically
The problems they are having now where Trigger and the resource guarding in particular is concerned will have their seeds in his genetics. Although previously lurking, the behaviour surfaces when he’s under stress.
The life of the little dogs has changed dramatically over the past three months. The young lady has moved near to myself, over an hour by train to London where she still works. Her relationship had broken up.
Where before they were with the young man during the day while he worked from home, now the dogs are all alone. A dog walker takes them out each day and for many dogs this would be fine. But Trigger and Biscuit aren’t used to being left alone though. Biscuit in particular barks or howls on and off during the day (they have a camera).
The upheaval has been a very stressful time for the young lady also, something which Trigger, in particular, surely picks up on.
Trigger may react badly when physically forced to do something – or told ‘No’, as he is when caught marking up the curtains. This is something new.
Trigger might previously have frozen if anyone walked past him when he had an edible resource, but now growls. He has gone for Biscuit around food. He seems also to have become increasingly grumpy around the young lady, resource guarding her. Recently he growled and then bit someone who approached when he was lying on her knee.
He is now grumpy with the young lady herself if, when he’s lying beside or on her on the sofa, she moves to get up.
The other day, finally prompting her to contact me, she had perhaps too quickly bent down to wipe something off Trigger’s head. Trigger bit her hand.
Doing things a bit differently
She will now allow Trigger to feel he has choice. She will motivate him using food.
Reading his body language is important and ‘listening’ to the growls. What is he saying? He is unhappy about something and that should be resolved for him.
When she wants him to stop doing something, she can use a positive approach by giving him an acceptable alternative like calling him away. He can be rewarded for coming – this isn’t reinforcing the action he was called away from. It’s important to avoid being confrontational with a grumpy dog especially, because it encourages growling and defiance in return.
It should never be a battle over who can win and fortunately. Though some trainers still advocate dominance, the young lady and her ex have never believed in it.
The more calm and settled Trigger can be, the less he will feel the need for aggression.
It’s important she applies management to prevent further potential grumpy or biting occasions erupting. Like feeding the dogs with the gate between them. The more aggression happens, the more it will happen each time.
Three main areas to work on
There are three main areas of approach, with my support, to help Trigger become less stressed and grumpy.
These are working on the separation problems which affect Biscuit even more than Trigger. The lady will also install an outside letter box to stop mail crashing through the front door while the dogs are alone (triggering a panic barking session).
Finally, as the lady settles into her new life and stops worrying about her little dogs so much, her own stress should reduce. This will help Trigger too.