Feeling insecure is at the root of little Jasper’s problems.
Outside, he barks and lunges at other dogs, rearing up on his hind legs with all his tiny weight.
When left alone, he cries and barks. It has got so bad the lady, who lives in a flat, even wondered whether she could keep him.
She has had the dear little Yorkie for six months now. His first owner had died, he ended up in a pound and then he spent time in a rescue before coming to the lovely home he now has. It’s little wonder he feels insecure.
Jasper is a very active ten-year-old and very fit (apart from having only one tooth that protrudes at the front). He is affectionate and friendly. When excited, he leaps up at people’s faces and determinedly licks them. It’s very hard to stop him as they aren’t consistent. Some people encourage it whilst others try to stop him.
I would normally give a dog something to chew instead, but Jasper, with only that one tooth, isn’t interested in chewing at all.
When not feeling insecure, he’s a quiet dog
Jasper’s barking is very clearly divided between quiet times and noisy times. A lot of noisy little dogs I go to bark fairly constantly at every little thing, but not Jasper.
He settles peacefully when he’s safely in his home with just the lady.
He barks when she either leaves him to go out or when he sees another dog out on a walk.
As it is just two things that cause the barking, it’s simple in once sense. Although both are symptoms of his insecurity, we know what to target. In another sense it’s not simple. Separation problems and reactivity to other dogs are two of the most tricky to resolve.
We need to give the basic cause, his insecurity, priority. The whole family should do everything to keep him as calm as possible.
We will work on the separation issues from three angles.
Firstly, she will keep his general stress/arousal levels as low as possible in every way. A calmer dog will be able to cope better with everything in life.
Secondly, she will start shutting doors on him briefly in the house, associating her departures with food but her returns boring. She has already started working on the triggers and she can pick now up her keys without causing him to panic.
Thirdly is the environment in which she leaves him. This has to happen on a regular basis for several hours at a time.
She will change the positioning of his crate from the front hallway where he can hear all the outside noises and where the post coming through the door can scare him. She will put it in her bedroom. He sleeps with her at night so already associates the bedroom with feeling safe.
‘Other dog’ issues
The lady will work on ‘other dog’ issues by helping him to feel less insecure and to trust her to look after him. This means doing things a bit differently.
When he sees another dog he feels vulnerable, trapped and unsafe. While he barks and tries to lunge, she holds the lead tightly and keeps going, scolding him ‘No’.
She will now do everything she can to build his confidence.
As soon as Jasper spots another dog she must increase distance even if it means carrying him away from ‘trouble’. She will do her best to react before he panics and starts to bark. Then, at a ‘safe’ distance she will begin to help him associate the other dog with good things.
The lady’s adult daughter had joined us. I noticed that he was even more determined to lick her face than he was mine. I also saw that her manner of touching him was very enthusiastic. Apparently it is so with other members of the family – particularly the men.
‘Handle With Care’
It would help him if everyone handles him more gently and calmly – ‘Handle With Care!’. The way we touch a dog can so easily over-stimulate him.
Jasper’s jumping at faces, pestering and frantic licking seems almost like it’s fuelling an addiction, but that the licking isn’t really helping him to calm. Instead it makes him want to lick even more.
I did a little experiment when he was calm.
I gave him a gentle and slow tickle behind his ears for a couple of seconds then stopped. He calmly looked up at me, wanting me to carry on.
I then vigorously and heavily stroked his back as the young lady did, just a few times. As soon as I stopped he was fired up, jumping and trying to lick my face again.
Jasper is a great little dog. With patience and a few changes, I would expect things to improve considerably. He doesn’t need to be a social butterfly with other dogs when out – just not an insecure barker.