Little Miniature Wire Haired Daschund, Ziggy, is scared of people he doesn’t know coming to his house. Particularly if they are standing up and even more so if they are walking about. He is a brave little dog. Instead of running, he faces his fear. He barks. He nips legs, particularly trousers.
Imagine how intimidating approaching and looming ‘walking legs’ can seem to a tiny dog.
Ziggy may react in much the same way if someone he already knows suddenly appears. If a child runs down the stairs and ‘explodes’ into the room, it will alarm him to the extent that he might rush to them and nip their legs.
A child was bitten on the leg.
Unfortunately this happened with a visiting child and, in the excitement, she received a bite to her leg.
This is a slippery slope. The more Ziggy’s reactive behaviour happens and seems to be successful (to his mind), the worse it will get. Ziggy barks at people as they come into the house through fear and probably some sense of territorial responsibility also. He behaves like he feels he must deal with them.
The adorable little dog is ten months old. He lives with an even smaller Miniature Wire Haired Daschund, Bea, a couple and their two boys.
Ziggy nips legs when people walk about.
His attempt to make people back off nearly always works because at the very least they may stop or recoil. When people and dogs pass by the garden fence he will believe it’s his barking that sends them on their way.
This is the way that matters inevitably snowball in the wrong direction.
To change the now-learned and well-rehearsed behaviour, Ziggy needs to be shown alternative, incompatible behaviours.
But this isn’t enough. Most crucially of all, his wariness of people he doesn’t know needs to be dealt with at source. He needs help to feel differently about them.
He always nips legs in a generally aroused environment. The calmer Ziggy can be general, the more successful the work will be. Calm isn’t so easy with children of around nine years old!
An important element for dealing with this sort of thing is management. With certain practical precautions in place they will simply make a recurrence of the biting incident with the visiting child impossible.
Practice makes perfect. An interesting read.
They can make the constant rehearsal of barking at their own children when they run downstairs and burst out through that door impossible – with a permanently shut baby gate that has to be opened. The time the kids have to take to open it, throwing food over first, will give Ziggy time to be prepared.
Use of the gate and of a lead will also physically manage Ziggy’s behaviour when visitors come.
Strategies for callers to the house include rolling food away from themselves for Ziggy – this immediately worked for me. He initially returned to barking between times but soon calmed down.
At any break in this barking, they can quickly say ‘Good’ and drop food, reinforcing quiet. This teaches him what they DO want. They can also reinforce him for looking at the person whilst being quiet – or doing anything else that they like.
Standing up and walking about.
I knew that the problem might start again when I stood up so I did so slowly – dropping food as I did so.
I carried on dropping food as I walked slowly about and he was fine.
Ziggy left the room. A minute later he came back in and I was still standing up. He went back to barking at me.
What worked best of all for Ziggy was, each time he began to bark at me, someone called him away brightly and rewarded him for doing so. They had Ziggy on good ‘remote control’. They were helping him out.
Every dog and every situation is different and it’s a question of finding the right individual approach. People probably need professional help for this.
With Ziggy, the physical barriers being in place like the gate will give his family the time, peace of mind and space to do the necessary behaviour work.
The little dogs have a lovely life with their family. No pressure. Nice walks. They have company most of the time and, to loosely quote, ‘they just live with us, keep us company, and have cuddles and love’. The fact that he nips legs demonstrates that things are not quite perfect for Ziggy just now.