Reuben would be living the perfect life for a dog if he never had to encounter other dogs. StaffieParson

Reuben  is a three-year-old cross between a Staffie and a Jack Russell. His home is on acres of land where he can run freely, hunting for rabbits. He goes to work with his young gentleman owner, accompanying him everywhere, and fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) this seldom involves the presence of any dogs.

He is, however, fine with about half a dozen dogs he has known since he was a puppy, but he witnessed a bad fight between two dogs and has been terrified ever since. My guess is that his fear is largely due to witnessing the humans’ behaviour during and after that fight.

The young man would like to be able to take his lovely dog to public places and on holiday, but because he is so react to other dogs he can’t. Due to their lifestyle, there has been no real incentive to do all the hard work necessary to desensitise and counter-condition Reuben.

Now the gentleman has decided it’s time something was done.

When he’s out, Reuben has a mix of too much freedom – and too much restriction. He has unlimited access to acres of land, often coming back when he feels like it. However, on the occasions he is on lead, the lead is short – and tightened if a dog appears. I personally would be giving ‘more rope’ when walking on lead, along with a lot less freedom to freelance.

We have a plan – working a step at a time, starting with comfortable loose lead walking whilst rehearsing in advance the techniques to use when the time comes to encounter dogs. Total avoidance of dogs gets them nowhere. Reuben should never be forced over his comfort threshold whilst intensive work is done with him.

The young man has shown amazing perseverance in his own life with a fitness regime, so if he transfers a bit of this persistent spirit and patience to the ‘Reuben Project’, the dog should eventually be walking happily past other dogs, paying attention to his owner and trusting in him.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Reuben, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).