Rommie Carmelo was a stray in Romania, then fostered for a couple of months and now, for nearly three months, he has been living with a gentleman and his mother.

He has become very attached to the man.

He guards the stairs

If the lady is downstairs, Carmelo snarls, barks and charges at her from top of the stairs as she goes up. He does the same from the bottom when she wants to come down.

He also guards the stairs from the man’s brother when he’s at home.

Carmelo may also react similarly if either the brother or mum get too close to the man.

Rough mouthing

During our Zoom consultation I watched as he mouthed the man quite roughly.

When he first arrived, the dog was very quiet and calm to start with as so many are. He is now settling in and becoming territorial.

I feel that with food left down all the time and too much vigorous hand contact they are encouraging not only the rough mouthing but also indirectly the stair guarding. Without sufficient enrichment and appropriate stimulation he could well be manufacturing his own employment. He is mainly German Shepherd so has guarding in his genes.

Zero tolerance for mouthing

Our plan is to get him working for food and doing a lot more sniffing etc.

The man now will have zero tolerance for the mouthing instead of just letting it happen or even unintentionally encouraging it. He won’t scold. He will remove his hand straight away and put something else into Carmelo’s mouth.

A stair gate?

I strongly recommended a gate for the stairs to simply remove the problem but they like him to have the freedom, so we came up with another plan. If it works, they won’t need a gate.

They seldom give him food rewards but will start doing so now. If the lady wants to go upstairs, she will call Carmelo to her, wherever he is, so he doesn’t suddenly rush at her from somewhere. Then she will reward him – maybe ask him to sit as well to get him settled.

Then she should be able to walk up the stairs without being ambushed.

From the top of the stairs she will do the same thing when she wants to come down.

It will mean a pot of food at top and another at the bottom. (If she carries food, Carmelo may mug her for it!).

If this doesn’t work, a gate is the only safe option with the behaviour gradually becoming more extreme.

If anyone needs to touch the man or get too close, they will try to remember to get Carmelo’s attention and throw him a bit of food.

Confrontation can only go one way

The whole point of both exercises is to make the dog feel better – both when someone who isn’t the man walks up or down the stairs, or when someone gets too close to him.

At present the lady gets angry and the man tells him off. Confrontation can only go one way and that is to escalate the behaviour.

He’s a gorgeous dog in every other way and he’s landed himself a lovely home.

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