Dear little Shih Tzu Archie currently lives with five more Shih Tzus, two of which are fosters like himself. The other three are the family’s own dogs.[
Kicked and thrown against a wall
Archie came from a home of domestic violence, was kicked and thrown against a wall.
It’s no wonder that when his stress levels rise, his insecurity increases.
With love and hard work the family have already transformed him over the last few months. Unsurprisingly, though, he still has some worrying behaviour, some of which is getting worse.
In the evening when her husband gets up from the sofa or walks into the room, Archie jumps up, barking. This can lead to very noisy confrontation between Hugo and the two other male dogs.
He hoards toys under the table and when another dog approaches he goes for him (not the girls). When Hugo then stands up for himself, Archie cowers and backs off straight away, shaking.
Rising stress levels
The days start calmly with no trouble from Archie. His problems only start in the afternoon when he becomes aroused and his stress levels rise. This gives weight to my theory that accumulating stress is largely to blame for his insecurity and aggression towards the other dogs – Hugo in particular. Also his resource guarding and ‘protecting’ of the lady.
Each day starts with all the dog going outside in the morning – no trouble. They all eat breakfast – no trouble. They then all jump onto bed with the gentleman – no trouble.
Each day the family takes them all to work in the family firm. The dogs get into the car – no trouble from Archie. The first arousal is when they get out of the car in anticipation of their walk. Then they spend the day in the office.
Archie first becomes seriously upset most afternoons when the lady has to leave the dogs alone in the office for a while, behind a gate. Archie panics. With the other dogs, he goes mental at the gate.
There are two main areas that I believe will advance Archie’s progress . The first is for everyone to do all they can to keep his stress levels as low as possible. The other is to concentrate on reinforcing the behaviour that they do want rather than scolding the behaviour they don’t want.
Avoid further rehearsal
It’s important to reduce further rehearsal of undesirable behaviours. The first thing we did was to lift all the toys. Management in the form of gate is vital so they can part the dogs at times.
Then the other five can have the toys one side of the gate. Archie can have something special to chew the other side, something that will help him to calm without the guarding.
Considering Archie’s feelings much more and what drives him to react aggressively is key. Where aggression to themselves is concerned, they should watch his body language and respect his signals, including growling. (Imagining the words he might be saying if he could talk gives the clue as to the most relevant and kindest response).
Because are stress levels are so much of the cause and they escalate in the afternoon, that’s where work starts. Archie is calmer when the office door is shut. He also has a crate they could pop him in when the lady leaves them, covered where he can’t eyeball another dog – with something special like a stuffed Kong.
With lowers stress levels, when evening comes Archie should feel less need to ‘protect’ the lady and go for the man when he walks towards her.
Reinforce the desired behaviour
When they see him stressed and near to one of the other dogs, immediately and before he aggresses they will say ‘Yes’. Then silently reward him. They may need quite rapid rate of reinforcement as they repeatedly feed Archie for calm around other dogs when he has a resource – the lady perhaps.
To quote her, ‘I need to feel I’ve done all I can to help Archie and that he’ll cope with moving on again’.