Why on walks does he stop, stand still and stare, then lunge, jump up and bite?

Published by Theo Stewart on

It’s a puzzle.

One-year-old Doberman Bruno is a well-trained and gentle dog. He is great with the young children and not trouble at all – except…..

Out on a walk, seemingly out of the blue, Bruno changes personality.

Is he trying to stop the walk?

Bruno will suddenly stop a few feet ahead, turn to face the man and stare. Then he flies at him, lunging, jumping up and biting. It’s not aggressive in that there is no snarling or growling. It’s hard grabbing.

Bruno otherwise walks so nicely. He doesn’t pull. He’s not particularly reactive to anything. He comes back when called. No trouble at all.

The man told me at the start of our session that there doesn’t seem to be a common trigger.

Is he over-excited? Does he want to stop walking any further? Is it a frustrated prey drive thing?

Here are some common denominators

Bruno has three walks a day.

Some delving has found some common factors.

The behaviour only happens when he walks alone with the man. If the wife and young children are with them, Bruno doesn’t stop in front of them and stare then lunge.

Another common factor before the walks where Bruno will stop is that the kids are still at home when they leave in the morning and they are back from school before the walk in the evening.

Bruno doesn’t do his stop thing on the lunchtime walk.

On the first and third walk (not the lunchtime walk) they always cross a busy A road.

The stop and stare and lounge behaviour never happens the home side of the busy road.

New things to try

The man has done quite a bit of research in order to try to stop the behaviour.

Here are some of my own new suggestions based on questions and diagnosis:

Breakfast and tea are before the two ‘stop’ walks. He doesn’t eat before the middle walk. Possibly the way he is fed before his walk makes him a bit excited.

They will feed smaller breakfast and tea and in a Kong to give him some work to do, (waiting a short while before his walks to avoid any risk of bloat). I suggest they don’t walk him hungry as this could cause stress.

I suggest the try missing out the first walk altogether. The man can give Bruno a longer lunchtime walk instead – he works from home.

I suggest they make the evening walk a relaxed a mooch, giving Bruno choice of where he goes, how long he sniffs for and so on. By the same token, he can decide when to come home.

They shouldn’t worry for now about any training and lead work out on this walk.

The behaviour itself

At any time the man senses Bruno may stop and the behaviour sequence begin, he should preempt it by getting Bruno’s attention onto something else.

I had a few ideas including some random scatter feeding or the occasional game of tuggy if grabbing and biting is what the dog seems to need.

If and when Bruno does begin the ‘stop’ behaviour, the man should turn around straight away and head for home.

Immediately turn for home

Turning for home is the thing to do whatever the reason for Bruno’s behaviour.

Is it because he’s concerned at having left the kids at home? Then to stop the walk and go home would be the right thing to do.

Is it something Bruno simply does for attention when over-aroused that’s become a habit? One might then assume in that case he wouldn’t want to go home. So, again, turning for home by not reinforcing the behaviour would be the right thing to do also.

If the man turns for home without delay as soon as the stop, stare and lunge behaviour begins, Bruno would have no need to do it anymore.

I am very interested how this goes and whether we have hit on a way to help Bruno.

One thing is certain – the young dog is needing something. He’s not getting through to them.

The wonderful owners have worked really hard, training Bruno and giving him lots of positive reinforcement and understanding.

The beautiful, friendly and gentle young dog is a testament to their hard work.

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

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