It’s movement that fires up her reactive behaviour

Published by Theo Stewart on

Cocker Spaniel Dido lives in a family with three boys ages 13, 11 and 8.

Dido is 6 months old.

Dido ‘randomly’ goes for the younger two boys’ feet or clothes, often growling as she does so. She ‘randomly’ jumps at people if they get too close when they are out.

On doing some research and diagnosis, the behaviour isn’t random at all.

It’s in response to some kind of movement.

Triggered by movement.

The more aroused or stressed Dido already is, the smaller the movement will set her off.

There is a pattern. It mostly happens in certain circumstances and at certain times

The faster or more arousing the movement, the more likely Dido is to react.

Dido’s life is one of extremes. She spends quite a lot of time in ‘her’ boot room leading off the kitchen, behind a shut door. This has to happen often when the younger boys are about because of her ‘aggressive’ behaviour. They also shut her in there when the family is eating.

No half way

Dido either is part of the action or she’s out of it – there is no half way.

I suggest putting a gate on the boot room door. Without such a stark contrast between being part of the action and movement or completely out of it, Dido may find the boys less exciting.

The main trigger times are when the boys enter the living room through a gate at the bottom of the stairs. Dido is immediately excited. She jumps up. As the day wears on and her arousal levels build up, she increasingly grabs, growls and bites.

Sometimes a small movement like the child shifting position or standing up is enough.

Strategies

First thing in the morning Dad (who is down first) will put Dido behind the new gate with her breakfast in a Kong before the boys come down. She can come out when they are sitting down and calm.

There will be much less movement.

They will do the same thing when they come home from school.

Encountering people, joggers and dogs

When out and on lead she may growl and snap at passing people, especially joggers; she tries to hide from dogs.

We looked at the best equipment to use so that her walks are less stressful for all concerned.

They have the very perfect place for ‘getting to feel confident around people, joggers and dogs‘ sessions.

Their garden is long. Beyond the garden there is a river and the other side of the river a path where Dido watches and barks at walkers, dogs – and joggers from a distance.

They can now begin to change how she feels about them.

Standing in their garden with Dido on lead, every time she looks at a person or a dog passing on the other side of the river they will say ‘Yes’ – and give her a bit of chicken.

A perfect set up!

I don’t think it will be long before she’s very happy when the movement of passing people and dogs catches her eye if it means chicken!

They will do the same thing on walks, doing their best not to get too close.

So now also we have plans for the boys to teach Dido not to chase their feet (they will try to avoid fast movement or be too noisy for a while – a big ask!). She will be given activities that make her think. Using her brain will calm her.

Dido is adolescent. With some work and being consistent, she should soon become a lot easier to live with.

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

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