The couple have had Jack for about three months now – he used to belong to a friend. Previous to that they used to look after him regularly, and cried when they had to give him back, so they were thrilled when the friends said they could have him.
Jack’s life has changed greatly from being part of a busy family without too much attention, to living with a couple and being the centre of their lives. It’s possible this is backfiring a little as the humans are now perhaps dancing a little too much to his tune! A dog, however well behaved he is at home, who has his owners doing his bidding, will be assuming some of the leader’s duties of decision-making and protection. This becomes a problem when leadership is most needed – away from home, out in the big dangerous exciting wide world. I have seen well-behaved calm house dogs changing when out on walks into dog-reactive pullers on lead countless times.
So, in order for walks to be enjoyable, leadership has to be in place at home. By leadership I don’t mean harsh commands and a rigid disciplinary routine but something a lot more gentle. A subtle shift in who obeys whom, who makes the decisions, who is responsible for safety, who is in charge of the food and who initiates most of the play.
A dog that is very excited before leaving the house, that charges ahead through the door and who pulls down the road to the extent that his tight collar is making him gag, is not a dog confidently walking with a leader. He is tense. His neck must be uncomfortable. When they see another dog the discomfort and tension increase as the owner thinks ‘heck- a dog!’ and passes the message down a tightened lead.
In Jack’s case his recall is excellent, and he is only reactive or aggressive to certain dogs on certain occasions. His ‘unpredictabilty’ will be to do with stress build-up. He is very obsessed with a particular ball that they take and which they use to ‘tire him out’. Like with a key on clockwork, overdoing the chasing games stimulates his prey-drive and can wind up a dog until he is so highly sprung he’s ready to go for almost anything.
I know from extensive experience that dogs who are not over-stimulated, who do natural doggy things like sniffing, marking, short bursts of hunting and running at their own pace exactly as they would if left to their own devices, are in a far better state of mind when it comes to encountering other dogs.