Milo is a Jack Russell aged just seven months. It is hard to believe he is little more than a puppy. He lives with another Jack Russell called Snoopy.
Both dogs show classic signs of stress. Milo is now biting people entering their house, he has bitten family members and he drew blood from a boy who came to play. The dog warden has become involved, and the distressed family were on the point of taking Milo to Wood Green.
The family moved house a week ago and this was the final straw for poor Milo. The whole family is under a lot of pressure. There are four children and, quite naturally for kids, they can be noisy and excitable with the usual squabbling and so on.
Milo sleeps inside the parents’ bed and snarls if a child comes near; the dogs make it impossible for anyone to get out of the front door they are so frantic and sometimes they redirect their stress onto one another. They are picked up, fussed, teased and played rough with. The owners have given up on walks due to the level of excitement before leaving and the noise Milo makes when out.
When I rang the door bell there was bedlam behind it – dogs barking, children shouting in their efforts to put the dogs behind the gate in the kitchen so they could open the door. We had Milo on a long lead to start with, but when he calmed down it was dropped. He ignored me and I ignored him. You can see from my photo that he may have been lying down, but he wasn’t relaxed.
Then an interesting thing happened. Someone came past the side window and Milo went into full guard and attack mode, charging at the window and then to the front window where I was sitting – and bit me! I’m always prepared and wear tough clothes so he only bit on my sleeve. I believe he was so fired up that I was the nearest thing when the stress ‘overflowed’.
Many people underestimate the devastating effect stress can have on a dog, and are often unaware of the sorts of things that constitute stress. It’s not only stuff associated with fear. Exciting play that the dog seems to love can cause stress as can walks, and they also pick up on the stress of the owners.
I see it like a bucket of water. Each time something excites, stimulates or frightens the dog, some water drips into the bucket. In dogs stress can take a long time to dissipate – days – so that water stays there! Bit by bit the bucket fills until it is near overflowing and just one more drop will cause it to flow over. The slightest thing can then cause the dog to fly off the handle. This is why some dogs seem ‘unpredictable’. How they handle something they may meet one day when the bucket isn’t full to overflowing will be different to how they react to the same thing another day when it’s brim full.
Stress reduction in every way possible is the only option for Milo, difficult with such a busy and noisy household. However, they have no choice. If it can’t be achieved, he may actually be better off in a calmer home. He is only seven months old and as he gets older he can only get worse if something isn’t done quickly; he will be the one to pay the price. Both little dogs are very well loved and it’s extremely distressing for owners to have a biting dog.