Hercules, on the left, lives with Shadow. I am told they are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but believe they must be a mix. They are both eleven years old.
Hercules isn’t as strong and brave as his name suggests. He is very nervous, and starts to shake at the slightest thing.
The main problem is the terrible distress he suffers when his owners go out and leave him, and being with Shadow doesn’t help him.
Hercules has always suffered from separation distress. This was compounded by six months in kennels in quarantine when the people came back to this country. A short while ago his lady owner went back to work after maternity leave and for a year the dogs had got used to not being left alone for very long.
Hercules did an amazing amount of damage to the house and furnishings when left in the past; they tried a crate and he broke out, damaging himself and losing teeth, and he also managed to escape from the house which involved the police. So they have converted a shed in the garden into a comfortable and safe kennel. Unfortunately Hercules goes into an utter panic when shut in there in the morning, and cries and howls all day without a break.
The neighbours have been very patient, but the council has now become involved.
This is a very difficult situation. The dogs are eleven years old and set in their ways. If I had come six months ago while the lady was still at home, we would have had the time needed to very gradually work on Hercules being left for very short periods, very frequently, and gradually build it up.
Now we have a tragic situation where Hercules is so stressed his life is almost unbearable at times. His owners also are extremely worried about him. The neighbours understandably have had enough.
We are looking at every behaviour aspect we can along with strategies to show the dogs that as ‘leaders’ the owners should be able to come and go as they wish and can be trusted to return. Within their time constraints they will be working on frequent small separations, starting by shutting doors behind them in the house. In addition to behaviour work, we have also been looking at management. Funnily enough, he is fine if left in the car, so maybe a ‘den’ in the shed would help, an old table with the sides covered perhaps. There are a lot of small ideas which, added together, I sincerely hope will help Hercules.
As a normal rule curing separation issues can take a long time, and in this case there simply isn’t time – either from the harm it must be doing to Hercules, the stress to the owners at a difficult time when the lady has to adjust to going back to work as well as organising the baby, and the impact on the neighbours.