Border Terrier sitting at the windowRalph barks at people and dogs going past his house, spending most of the day sitting on the back of the sofa by the window on lookout duty.

They have deliberately left a gap in their hedge at the back of the garden which overlooks the park, so he can watch dogs and people from there also.

He likes it. Yes….but……

The Border Terrier is now five years old and whilst he’s great with people once they are in the house, particularly the children’s friends, he has been doing this window-watching for much of his life. He goes mental when the postman comes up the path and will wreck the post if he gets to it. Rehearsing this behaviour constantly at home, it is little wonder that he continues to react like this to people and dogs in other places. A while ago he bit a postman.

Meeting the dear and much-loved little dog in his house, it’s hard to believe.

What’s more, the lookout duty, the guarding and the barking will mean his stress levels are probably permanently raised, and as more things happen during a typical day they can get to tipping point.

He gets so aroused when they meet some dogs out on walks that he has bitten the lady several times as she held him back – her leg just happened to be in the way and he redirected onto the nearest thing.

There is nothing at all to be gained by getting that near to another dog when your own dog is reacting quite so desperately. More distance must be put between them if at all possible at the very first sign of any reaction.

Border Terrier looking out of the windowFortunately in some ways, Ralph is obsessed with his tennis ball. If, instead of constantly throwing it for him both at home and on walks, they were to reserve it for when he sees another dog, it could not only give him something to redirect onto but in time dogs will be associated with something good. The downside to current constant ball play is that it adds to a dog’s already high arousal levels. Withhold it and the ball will gain even more value as a training tool.

Like so many dogs who are reactive to other dogs when out, he will be feeling tension from a lead hooked to a collar. As soon as they spot a dog, they tighten the lead resulting in inevitable neck discomfort. It would be so much better if, instead of a shortened lead on a collar and holding their ground, the lead were loose and attached to a harness with which they can make a comfortable diversion around the other dog.

The territorial problem is highlighted at their caravan by the coast. He doesn’t like dogs or people coming too near. The final straw was recently when a man cut between the caravans a bit too close for Ralph and Ralph bit him.

Both at the caravan and at home, management should be in place such as blocking Ralph’s view from the window (he will need other, more healthy kinds of stimulation to fill the vacuum) and blocking the shortcut between the caravans. Serious work can then be done on changing Ralph’s feelings about other dogs and about people approaching his property.

They can start by working at those dogs already at a safe distance in the park out the back, through that hole in their hedge, desensitising and counter-conditioning him using food and ball play.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ralph. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).