A couple of years ago, before I started this blog site, I visited Ben, a beautiful Red Cairn Terrier, then age 7. His (or his owners’) problem was that Ben would bite. If anyone put a hand out near him he would bite. He would catch men’s trouser legs as they walked by and he bit the vicar when he called! He is aloof and not at all affectionate – there is no cuddling him. He won’t allow it.
I worked out a plan with them and for the first two months they did brilliantly. Ben was a changed dog. Then things started to fall apart and the problems came back. I worked with them again and our final communication ended with the lady saying “We relaxed a little as Ben was so good and I thought he would keep this behaviour up.” I replied: “He will only keep up the behaviour if you do. If you go back to your old ways – so will Ben. He might even be worse.” That was the last I heard until a couple of days ago when the lady phoned to say he had bitten a lady and drawn blood, that she was afraid for children they might meet out on a walk and that they were having Ben put to sleep.
Anyway, they decided to give it one more go and I went to see them again last night. In nearly every respect they were ignoring my instructions of a couple of years ago – it was almost like I had never been or spent weeks following up and supporting them. Poor Ben was getting mixed messages – a doting lady owner and a man who, though doting also, was impatient and given to shouting.
As Victoria Stillwell says: Most dog problems have nothing to do with dogs, they are people problems. This is certainly the case with little Ben. He is looked after from time to time by a lady and Ben loves to sit on her lap. He loves her to cuddle him. He never bites when with her. At the groomers he is an angel, allowing her to touch him and pull him about. It is with his owners that he’s the problem dog.
Though Ben seems aloof and withdrawn – apart from mad barking sessions particularly if someone comes to the door, his stress is evident by his frequent air-snapping. I really so hope that this time, last chance saloon, they will consistently put in the required effort and change their ways and not just for a few weeks. It must continue for the rest of his days. It will need great patience and self-control from the gentleman, and more quietness, calm, fewer commands and less scolding from the lady. If they communicate with him properly he should soon enjoy being touched by them also.
The bottom line is, and already proven, if they carry on as they are, so will Ben. The only way to change Ben’s behaviour is to change their own. I can show them how, but I can’t do it for them!