Touch Him. Growls. Guards Personal Space. Attacks Other Dog

No touch when sleeping


If he’s lying down, Chester may growl when they touch him. He attacked their other greyhound when he suddenly disturbed him. This makes their owners very worried and unhappy.

Yesterday they arrived home from work to find three open wounds on Conor’s neck and back.

Chester is a stunning 6-year-old greyhound. They rescued him from the world of racing a couple of years ago when he broke his leg. What a reprieve! He lives in a lovely house with a couple who adore him and another dog he gets on with most of the time.

From the start he was scared by certain things about the real world, particularly out on walks. So they got him a pal – Conor, 5.

Dignified and somewhat aloof

A dignified and somewhat aloof dog, there is a lot more going on inside Chester than appears on the outside.

He is precious about his personal space. If woken suddenly he man growl and snap.

When he’s asleep or dozing and someone comes near, his automatic instinctive reaction on waking suddenly is to ‘protect himself’.

Sadly poor Conor has been his main victim. He has come too near Chester when he’s been asleep or relaxed and Chester has flown at him. Conor has received injuries three times over the past year. Twice while they were out and once during the night.

This doesn’t make Chester a bad dog. It’s an instinctive reaction with some dogs, particularly those who may not have been bred carefully or not had the best puppyhood – used to touch, handling and cuddles. The first few months of a puppy’s life are so important. Very possibly one of his parents had the same tendencies. 

Do Not Touch!

Because Chester is defensive when approached and most particularly to touch in certain situations, the first and most important thing is for everyone to stop touching him for now. A dog will only guard something, whether his own self or a resource, if he feels there is a threat of it being challenged. It seems to be human nature to keep trying.

‘No touch’ and he should relax.

To prevent proximity or any unwanted touch from Conor when Chester is lying down, they now have installed a gate. They will keep the dogs apart while they are at work. Chester, like all racing greyhounds, is used to wearing a muzzle which can give safety at other times if necessary.

Changing how Chester feels

The next step after physical control and management  is, over time, to begin getting Chester to associate a person approaching him while he’s resting or in his bed with good things. He should learn to welcome their nearness and, confident they won’t touch him, relax.

Conor with coat to stop him licking wounds

They will use clicker and food. Clicker to alert him. Food to make him feel good. (Here is a nice little article about teaching your dog to wake up gently).

Hopefully this will spill over onto Chester’s reaction to Conor unwittingly touching him too.

Neither dog is very responsive to his humans. They take little notice of requests to either come or to go out. They don’t respond readily to their names and may ignore their owners who then put in a lot of effort and cajoling. In a way this attention reinforces ignoring them.

Diffusing trouble

If the dogs were much more alert to their names and motivated to coming when called, the couple would have them on remote control. They would no longer need to physically manhandle or move them. If they could see Conor climbing into bed with Chester, all they need do is to call him to them, or call Chester to get him to look at them. Trouble diffused.

Both dogs will dogs learn to do as asked, well motivated by food rewards. Chester, in particular, will respect and pay more notice of them. With this kind of relationship, Chester may be more inclined to welcome their proximity. This is about working on a slightly different relationship between owners and dogs.

They will book a thorough vet check of Chester to eliminate any discomfort that could be making him more reactive to touch.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help


Behaviour change. Erratic. Staring. Upset or Unwell?

Maybe it wasn’t such a sudden behaviour change after all. Perhaps there were already signs.

Earlier when we spoke on the phone I heard this story:

Sudden behaviour changeIt began about three months ago. Ambrose was spending hours just sitting and staring. Continue reading…

Jack Russell With Big Ears

Jack Russell attacked a dogNot being able to trust your dog can ruin walks. The human is anxious all the time and the dog loses freedom.

Little Jack Russell Rags is nearly 4 years old now, and he has lived with the lady since he was one. To date there have now been four episodes culminating in Rags attacking a dog that he knew.

Each incident had seemingly been over a resource of some sort – a ball or food. From how the lady describes it, it’s probable that in the most recent and worst incident with the friend’s dog that she herself was the resource.

I noticed that wherever we were standing Rags carefully placed himself between us, watching me.

In the most recent and worst incident the lady was with a friend in the other lady’s kitchen. The dogs had met a couple of times out on walks previously and had been fine together. The two ladies were chatting and both dogs were under the table between them. Suddenly Rags went for the other dog’s throat. Being long-haired, the much bigger dog wasn’t hurt and he didn’t retaliate, but it really upset Rag’s lady. She decided she needed to do something about it.

Already she has started to put into place some of my advice over the phone regarding encountering dogs on walks and the situation is getting a lot better. The hackling, lunging and barking has reduced dramatically.

It can seem unfriendly and embarrassing when meeting a person with their dog if you simply walk away from them! For this reason I suggest a ‘dog in training’ yellow vest for Rags. This may help a little too with those off-lead uncontrolled dogs whose owners give one an earful when our own on-lead dog responds to being approached!

The lady now needs to address the issue of Rags’ possessiveness of herself, including guard duty in general. She will work on a couple of training exercises to get and keep his attention and give him a bit more mental stimulation.

One month later: ‘walking is going well. I am feeling more relaxed. “Look at me” is wonderful. He knows” find it” . i am better at “reading” Rags now.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rags, which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).