They have had their Romanian rescue, Ella, for about six weeks. As she gets braver she now will bark aggressively at the man when he approaches or moves, hackles up.

They are afraid she may bite him.

She’s affectionate with the lady.

Romanian rescue becoming increasingly reactive to the man

Here are a couple of salient points: Ella only reacts in this way when the lady is in the room. It seems also that it’s only when the lady is sitting down.

She may well be ‘protecting’ or guarding the lady – maybe owning her. The lady either tells her off when she does it or she comforts her.

Both to my mind are the wrong approaches. They are dealing with their Romanian rescue settling in and adjusting, not naughtiness, so telling her off isn’t appropriate. If the lady reacts in a negative fashion but only when the man is involved, it could be one reason why Ella’s behaviour towards the man is escalating.

Sometimes she may comfort Ella instead. This, then, is a bit like the lady saying ‘I’m on your side against the man’! It’s reinforcing the behaviour and the inconsistency will be confusing.

Like everything to do with what will be fear in some form, it involves working in baby steps.

I am calling the man ‘Mr. Sprats’.

Both the lady and the gentleman will teach Ella that the man triggers sprats. (Nothing else apart from the man will trigger sprats!)

In the morning he spends a couple of hours with the dog before the lady comes down. He can make very good use of that time.

Each time he moves, or even goes to move and stand up (even though the dog will be quite ok with it), he will throw sprats at her. With the lady not present, he will build up a solid association when he moves about.

Eventually he should be able to call Ella to him for a sprat as he enters the room.

First worked on alone, now with the lady present

Now he can do the same thing that he’s rehearsed whilst alone but with the lady sitting on the sofa.

This is where she can help.

Ella begins to bark as soon as she hears the man approaching the door to enter the room. Immediately the lady will drop sprats.

With Ella quiet, he can enter the room, walking in a casual fashion, arcing away from both Ella and the lady.

More sprats chucked towards Ella by the lady.

If Ella now begins to react, I suggest the lady quickly stands up (the behaviour has never happened when she’s been standing).

If that doesn’t work, then she will walk out, quickly – as if to say, ‘I don’t need you to either guard me from the man or to own me. I can look after myself’.

Ella will no doubt follow her which is no problem.

With the man already sitting down, the dog will feel more confident.

The lady and Ella can come back into the room after a minute or so.

With the man already in the room and sitting down, I would bet that Ella will be okay so long as he stays still. They now know what to do when he does move.

The couple have come a long way with their Romanian rescue. They still have a long way to go.

When she’s brave enough to go outside, she will then be able to explore their large but insecure garden safely. They’ve not yet been able to get a harness and long line on her. They will do this also in baby steps.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help