Obsession With Small Child. Fixated. Reactive.
I met a confident, relaxed and friendly little dog. I had left her alone to sniff and investigate me without trying to touch her until she was ready. Also, I was already seated before she joined us.
A new person walking directly towards a dog in a doorway, looming, can be intimidating.
Maddie is a very friendly and well socialised little dog, great with most people. She is particularly reactive to children however.
Her main problem is the little grandson – we will call him Jack.
Jack is a very good with Maddie. He treats her with respect. They have known each other since he was born.
He is now getting fed up with her behaviour towards him – even a a bit scared.
Maddie has an obsession: Jack.
As soon as he arrives Maddie is running at him, jumping up and barking. It’s excitement to see him for sure, but is it pure pleasure? I doubt it.
This generates a lot of human excitement and understandable scolding. The dog is getting worse.
All the time Jack is moving about, Maddie is barking at him. She rushes up the stairs ahead of him, barking down at him. When he goes downstairs she rushes ahead of him, barking up at him.
When he sits down she stops barking but she sits right beside him, staring at him.
He may now be able to move about slowly – though she will be at his heels. If he runs, as children do, she will begin to bark again.
Maddie is very agitated.
So far I haven’t actually seen this for myself. My assessment is from close questioning rather than observation. They have some groundwork to put in place first before having Jack round again.
It is obvious that Maddie has some sort of fascination for Jack. She seems excited and scared of him in equal measure. It sounds like she seems to want to control him, herd him. The herding theory is plausible. Schnauzers and Miniature Schnauzers were originally used as cattle herding dogs.
Being a child, Jack will naturally be somewhat unpredictable. He has become Maddie’s obsession.
The plan is for them to have a well-rehearsed short visit with Jack, dealing with Maddie completely differently but without me there to complicate things or cause any extra excitement.
Then Jack will make second visit with me already there.
An unused trump card.
Instead of trying to stop Maddie from behaving like this using scolding and restraint, they will be upbeat. They will sound encouraging and reward her for being quiet instead. They will reinforce her when she looks away from him – with food. They’ve not tried using food for reward and reinforcement so they have a big, unplayed, trump card!
They will now think in terms of helping her out rather than disciplining her. This will mean putting her on ‘remote control’ by working on a solid, bright and encouraging ‘Maddie Come!’ so that she immediately comes away from Jack when asked to. This is part of the groundwork.
Setting the scene.
Most importantly, the scene needs to be set in the best way to help Maddie, so that when she comes into Jack’s presence she’s not already highly aroused and barking.
Managed in this way, both Jack and the adult humans will be a lot calmer and less anxious, which Maddie should pick up on.
She will be out of the way when Jack arrives. He will already be sitting down when, much calmer, she is brought in to join him. She will then be given things to occupy her mind and help her to calm – she would love a Kong or a chew. The session will be kept very short.
After this initial ‘trial’ session, I will be there for the second session to see for myself what is now happening. I can make sure we are using the very best tactics for both Jack and Maddie.