Manic Evenings. Jumps and Bites. Grabs Cushions. Pants
They do all they can for Winston but his behaviour is a challenge for the young couple – as it would be for most people. They simply can’t cope with his manic evenings.
They have had the one-year-old English Bulldog for under two months and they are at their wits’ end with him. It’s ruining their life to the extent that the gentleman admits to not wanting to come home in the evening.
They are very conscientious, wanting so badly to get things right. They walk Winston before going to work and a dog walker takes him out at lunchtime. They walk him again when they get home.
The young man gets home first and the pressure towards the manic evenings begins to build up. He takes Winston for a walk to the park. They have just finished a course of dog training classes and are keen for him to walk nicely without too much stopping to sniff.
Next they cook and eat tea, with Winston very much in the way while they eat. He wolfs his own tea down.
As soon as they sit down after tea the manic evenings start. He charges at them. He flies all over them on the sofa, grabbing anything he can whether it’s their clothes, an arm or a cushion. He rushes about the room, panting.
The key to unlocking the ‘inner calmer, more controlled Winston’ is to reduce his arousal levels. His hyper behaviour is unfortunately overshadowing all his other very good features.
The symptoms, not the problem
The problems they are finding aren’t actually the mouthing, chewing cushions and so on at all but the emotions that are driving and causing the behaviours.
They have been trying to deal with the symptoms and not the underlying cause.
Like many people, they have believed and read online that more exercise and stimulation is needed to make him ‘good’, when actually it’s the very opposite. Winston needs more mental enrichment and just as much time spent on him – if not more – but what they do during this time needs to be different.
It’s after his third walk, before their tea, that the trouble starts.
The walk has been about getting him to the park as quickly as possible, allowing little stopping and sniffing. Now they will allow him to walk in a way that satisfies him with plenty of sniffing. Being denied the mooching and exploring after some hours shut in his crate will doubtless be frustrating for him.
He can now choose where he goes and when he stops to sniff – within reason.
An ‘enrichment course’
They will gate him out of the kitchen (perhaps with a marrow bone to chew) while they have their own tea. Then, before they sit down on the sofa in front of the TV, they can set him an ‘enrichment course’.
He will now work for his own tea by licking it out of Kongs, foraging for it in a snufflemat and around other obstacles – and sniffing for it out in the garden.
When they have sat down for the evening, between dipping in and out of his ‘enrichment course’ as he works for his tea, Winston will no doubt jump up onto the sofa.
We found the clicker very good for marking when he is doing what they do want. He became focused and the panting stopped.
It’s so beneficial to be looking out for good behaviour as opposed to bad.
He should then end up more tired – healthily tired – making manic evenings unnecessary for him. Their own behaviour with him will now be a lot calmer and quieter and he should reflect this.
Now they understand that these behaviours are about the dog trying to give himself relief, to let out steam, rather than him being attention-seeking and naughty. They understand it’s when Winston’s ‘pressure cooker’ is ready to blow that they get the manic evenings. He simply has to explode.
Their job is to keep the gas low and to help any steam to escape before it builds up, giving the dog ways to vent before the lid blows, triggering the manic evenings.
I predict that as they understand Winston better and the reasons he behaves as he does, they will be able to enjoy him more, particularly because they won’t feel so helpless. The manic evenings will become a rare occurrence which they will be able to trace back to pressure build-up.
The main difference will be in their own mental attitude towards Winston’s behaviour.