It was quite exhausting being with poor Archie, a three year old Red Setter. It took an hour for him to settle down – briefly – before he was on the go again, catching imaginary flies and lick lick licking the sofa. Toileting indoors is also part of the picture, and energy rushes where he tears all over the place, over the sofas and dangerously near to knocking over their toddler.
It was like being in the presence of someone struggling with a nervous breakdown. One can understand that living with this can be frustrating for people who don’t know what to do about it. They love their beautiful, gentle dog – very small for a male of the breed – but their way of coping is the very opposite to what I would myself do.
I work on the theory that whatever people are doing, it isn’t working, else the dog wouldn’t be doing it any more. So, try the opposite or at least something very different. They had resorted to an electric shock collar, mostly used on ‘beep’, and compressed air spray, to shock the dog into stopping, and when he charges past the little girl they may resort to shouting and pinning him down. He is punished after the event if he has chewed a door frame when left outside alone, or if they find poo in the house.
I don’t want you to get the idea that these people want to be cruel, but they don’t know different and they are at their wit’s end. Methods advocated for correction in a certain popular TV programme and taken out of context are largely to blame.
I explained how you can look at stress levels rising in a dog like water rising in a bucket. Each time something happens – the postman comes, the dog gets left alone, he gets chastised and so on – a little more water drips into the stress bucket. A dog’s stress levels can take days to go back down again, so it’s not hard to see that the bucket will eventually overflow. In poor Archie’s case, it’s at the brim constantly, and each time the owners respond as they do it merely tops it up.
So, de-stressing big time is the order of the day. He does no repetitive stuff when out of the way in his crate. They will gently and quietly put him in there for calming ‘time out’ when he gets out of control with himself. They will have alternatives to hand for him to chew, to distract him from sofa licking but so he can still release the calming pheromones licking and chewing give him. They will ditch gadgets and punishment. They will look at positive ways to reward him and encourage him instead of negative methods.
They have a much better understanding of Archie now. By nature he is highly strung, but I am sure before long they will see a different dog.