wanting the perfect dogThey think Otis is a Ridgeback crossed with a Pharaoh Hound. This wonderful young dog has been through a lot in the one year of his short life. He started life in a puppy farm, ended up in a shelter for several months, and a couple of months ago was adopted by a young couple – my clients.

He was in a woeful, thin state having hated being kennelled. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they discovered he had a congenital heart disease so he needed major surgery.

The gentleman is with Otis all day as he works from home and has worked very hard training him to be a house dog and to be obedient. He has done amazingly well. All was going more or less to plan until three weeks ago when Otis went back to the shelter in order to be castrated.

Castration fallout

Since then he has become anxious and needy, developing separation problems; understandably insecure.

This dog is incredibly obedient, I would say somewhat repressed and over-controlled. With anxiety now part of the equation, the man has been becoming increasingly frustrated because this is an aspect of Otis’ behaviour that he is unable to control. The anxiety is affecting the dog’s behaviour towards people he meets or hears and how the gentleman feels about his dog.

Otis has been kept in the kitchen even when they are in the sitting room. He has been trained to stay in the crate even though the door is open. The reasoning being that if he’s allowed to join them once he will expect to be there all the time. When they go out for a smoke in the garden, they may leave Otis in the kitchen, watching out of the window, thinking that if they always let him out it will create a precedent.

The perfect dog.

I think this wanting Otis to be the perfect dog is backfiring on them. Just as something that is too freely available loses value, the converse must be true and if a dog is starved of something (company) he will crave it more and hence his increasing neediness for company. There is also inconsistency between the couple resulting in conflict. The lady is much more relaxed and wants cuddles while the man has been set on creating the perfect dog. I felt terrific sympathy for both of them.

At the end of our time together, he volunteered that he was banging his head against a brick wall of his own making. Otis had to be in the sitting room all the time I was there and he was as good as gold. With the ongoing self-imposed pressure to ‘get it right’ the man has been pushing himself and Otis much too hard, but in treating Otis in a way that rested comfortably with her, his wife was in effect undermining him. She, too, has compromises to make.

In his efforts to do his very best for his dog the poor man had lost his way and lost sight of the reason they got the dog – to enjoy family life with his lovely wife and their happy dog.

Their first task is to look for every GOOD thing they can see their dog doing and immediately reward it with a piece of his kibble which they should keep in their pocket – whether it’s watching the cat walk by without moving, settling down after pacing or not barking when he hears something outside.

It’s amazing what a different mindset can do.

I had an email this morning: ‘It was great to meet you last night. I can’t tell you how much things have improved already! Otis seems much happier and in turn so are we’.