Shock. Terror. Horrifying Event for the Dogs

Less than two weeks ago a huge shock event devastated the couple’s lives. It was all over the local and national news:

Shock of van driving into front door

‘A van has crashed into a 16th century cottage in Bedfordshire, smashing through its front door and becoming lodged in the wall.

The driver, a 34-year-old man, has been arrested and is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

(The lady) told the BBC she heard a noise “like an earthquake” when the van smashed into her property.

“This van came flying over a hedge and crashed into our hall and kitchen,” she said.

“If I had (not) left the room I don’t know what would have happened.”

What the news didn’t cover was that their two Airedale Terriers were there also.

Afterwards there was panic and shouting: there were fire engines, sirens, flashing blue lights, police and fire crew. The driver was apprehended. Only the van was holding up the front of the house.

Dogs Clem and Rupert had been put out of the way in the back garden in the dark. When the daughter came to take them away to her own house, she found them cowering and shaking.

To get to her car the two terrified dogs had to be walked through all this.

Can a dog be psychic?

A very strange thing happened that evening, beginning a couple of hours before the huge shock crash. Older Airedale Rupert, usually quiet and calm, stood staring at the couple, barking repeatedly at them.


Rupert had never behaved in this way before.

The house was propped up, tidied up as far as possible and the dogs were brought home a week later.

Clem hasn’t been herself since.

Placid Rupert now continues to stare at them in an evening, barking.

I met the two gorgeous dogs a couple of days ago, less than two weeks later. Rupert, more self-contained, took himself off having had a good sniff of me. Clem is the more needy. She was agitated in a friendly way and she wanted attention.

Already a sensitive dog, the recent events have caused her the most trauma. She undoubtedly doesn’t feel safe. 

After Shock.

This is a brief taster of what it must be like for dogs in natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, or dogs in war zones. Something sudden happens that they don’t understand and their world goes mad.


A couple of days after the two dogs were back home a picture, all by itself, fell crashing down from the wall. The wall must have been shaken. Fresh panic for Clem in particular.

She is very receptive to the emotions and behaviour of her humans and the upset following the event has really affected the lady and the gentleman. Picking up on this will be adding to Clem’s inability to calm down at certain times.

She always has had a habit of leaping up and ‘biting’ arms when over-excited or aroused. Now that her stress levels are so high it’s happening even more. It really hurts. The lady cries out and there is shouting. Consequently Clem gets even more worked up.

When I was there we concentrated on showing her that jumping up at or on me didn’t work, got her no attention, but feet on the floor did. She was very persistent but she was also a very fast learner. In no time she was choosing to sit or stand calmly instead.

Knowing how this kind of dog can be strongly influenced by my own behaviour, I spoke quietly and really engaged with her. I gave her things to chew. Chewing helped her enormously.

The lady said she’d not seen Clem happy like this since ‘it’ had happened.

Our sensitive dogs mirror us.

Behaving quietly and calmly around Clem will make a huge difference over time. The couple’s nerves are understandably still very much on edge with the shock. Their lovely cottage is the product of years of hard work.

The number one priority for now where Clem is concerned is to do all they can to reduce her stress levels, very importantly by being quiet and calm around her. Any stress is cumulative and can last for days (for both humans and dogs). The stress of a shock like this will last far longer.

Working on stress-reduction by doing several small things which may not make a big difference individually should produce results when added together.

Dogs can get PTSD too.

Some symptoms of PTSD in dogs are listed in

I’m sure they will all get themselves back to normal before too long and, with luck and with work, Clem may actually end up more calm and confident than she was before the incident. Her humans will now act differently at those times when she can’t control herself, most particularly when they come down in the morning, come in from having been out and before meals.

Instead of entering the room to jumping and arm-grabbing from a hyper Clem with poor Rupert trying to intervene, they will now have a gate in the doorway. They won’t open the gate until Clem’s feet are on the floor and she has calmed down a bit. They can then help her out by giving her something to chew as they step through.

Human noise, crying out, shouting at her to stop and so on, can only intensify the dog’s arousal.

(Bonfire night and fireworks in a few days’ time may well be the very last thing Clem needs just now).


NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Clem and I’ve not gone fully into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (click here to see my Help page)

Update on the Airedale Puppy

Airedale is now adolescentHenry is now a handsome five-month-old, and they have come a long way in some respects since I saw him at ten weeks, but in others there has been a lack of consistency and I was disappointed in the lack of progress with his main problem – the mouthing. When I arrived one family member was playing with his fist, encouraging Henry to use his mouth. The knock-on to this is that they can neither wipe his feet when he comes in from outside nor brush him without a fight as he tries to grab hands, towel and brush.

The other associated problem to do with lack of mouth control is when Henry takes a treat reward, he snatches and that is painful. I showed them how to get him to take food politely and briefly repeated the kind of ‘dance’ I did originally to teach him manners. The mouthing issue may be taken more seriously this time, now that he’s growing rather big!

Walking isn’t being done according to the plan either. It’s a challenge when different people are involved who weren’t in it from the beginning. See Henry with his smart new harness in the photo? With a longish lead fastened to the hook on the front he can learn to walk nicely; currently the lead is being held short and tight, the lead is on his collar and Henry is being constantly pulled back. One person who walks him has been been used to old-fashioned ‘control’ methods rather than reward-based and may be a bit resistent to what I teach. I hope after my demonstration with Henry that he can see the difference.

I shall follow them up shortly to make sure all is going to plan. In everything consistency is key, and each family member needs to be following the plan so they all drink from the same water bowl so to speak.

Airedale Puppy Starting Off Right

Ten week old Airdale puppy sleeping Airedale puppyOh joy! Today I met Henry. Henry is a ten-week-old Airedale puppy and he’s going to grow BIG.

I was called because the couple couldn’t stop him mouthing and nipping them and because they want to make sure they start of right. I expected jumping up when I arrived, but he was really quite calm for a puppy. In the two weeks since they have had him they have worked hard and he has learnt a lot.

It soon became apparent that, like most people I go to with puppies, they aren’t communicating with him efficiently – in a way that he easily understands. There is an automatic assumptions that dogs understand English! Another automatic assumption is that to train a dog not to do something it should be scolded with ‘no’.

Both are wrong. Actions speak a lot louder than words and the best way to stop a puppy doing something you don’t want is to get it to come away and do something else instead. People also underestimate a puppy’s need to chew – to help teething, exercise his jaw and to release endomoprhins to calm himself down, so he needs a good supply of alternatives that are more attractive than the corner of the coffee table.

All the time while Henry was awake during the three hours I was there – and he had three naps – it was like a dance while I showed him by my own reactions what I would like him to do and what I would like him not to do. He was very attentive and obviously enjoyed it. He used his mouth – I withdrew my attention. He used teeth, I squealed softly and withdrew my attention. He sat calmly on the floor, I gave him attention. He put his feet up on me, I gently tipped him off whilst looking away. His feet back on the floor, I gave him attention. He started to chew the table, I clapped my hands gently or said ‘uh-uh’ and then gave him something he could chew. I called him and he came running. All the time that I was talking with his owners, this dance went on. Soon he was walking beside me around the room with no lead, and then on a long loose lead.

I use only positive reinforcement – rewards – attention and food.

They have already taught him several commands and he’s a quick learner, but they now need to get him to understand good manners and to come to them whenever they call him. At the moment he just looks at them when they call him!

I shall be going again soon to take things to the next stage. They have a challenge getting him not to chase their cat – and for the cat not to run which turns it into prey. Before we can do any more they need to be happy in proximity but safely separated by a gate.

When he has finished his injections Henry will need plenty of socialising – encounters with gentle and friendly dogs and acclimatisation to traffic, children, crowds and so on. The earlier this is established the better, while he still has his puppy fearlessness.

He was delightful. I can’t wait for my next visit. They have their ‘Puppy Plan’ to start them off, and in a few weeks Henry will have reached the next stage.

Airedale Bites Hands

Airedale Jessie doesn't like hands aproaching from above herAlex is a young man who likes to take his five-year-old Airedale, Jesse, to the pub with him. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it. However, he has a big problem. Jessie doesn’t like people to enter her space, bend over her and touch her, and in a pub atmosphere this is sometimes hard to prevent!

The other day she bit a man she knows well. He was standing at the bar beside her owner and she was between them. All he did was casually drop his hand onto her head and suddenly her teeth were in him. As he withdrew, she bit again – as though to make sure he really was going away.

Jesse has always been uneasy about being approached, never willingly coming over for attention unless under her own terms when she wants something and the only way the man can show her affection is if he goes over to where she is lying – and then she may growl at him. The biting of people really started a while ago when someone ignored all her signals and repeatedly kept coming back to touch her. You can understand why – she looks like a big teddy bear! Eventually she was so provoked that she went for him. Unfortunately he had learning difficulties and should have been protected – as should Jesse, but telling people to back off can seem unfriendly and rude in the best of circumstances. From that time she has been a lot more unpredictable. Unheeded warnings have proved pointless, so she goes straight into the bite.

If it weren’t sad, how she treats her male owner would be quite comical. She sits with her back to him and I can only call it disdain. She ignores him. To quote him – she’s ‘indifferent’. The only times she does willingly communicate with him are to get him to jump to her tune.

Making all the decisions is no better for a dog living in a human environment than it is for a child.

I saw Jesse come to life towards the end of my visit when I called her over (she came promptly instead of the usual repeated calls followed by causal sauntering up sniffing things on the way!), and asked her to do a few things for me, quietly and just the once. She became focussed and looked very happy. I see with many dogs I visit how they love to work for someone when they understand exactly what it is they should be doing and when they find it rewarding. This is the sort of relationship the man needs with his dog. It’s easy for me because I have no past history and can start with a dog the way I mean to go on.

My expectation is for Jesse to cooperate, the owner’s expectation is to be ignored. The respective tones of voice and attitudes are self-fulfilling.

As her ‘guardian/leader’ it’s up to the owner to protect his dog from unwanted attention – and as politely as possible to be forceful. This is something I now find a lot easier than I did at his age! I am sure that when Jesse feels less defensive when people are nearby, less important and more relaxed, she will become much more tolerant of the occasional mistaken hand placed on top of her head, even if never really enjoying it.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.