Crumpet is a Cockerpoo. Crumpet (I just love her name) is three years old.
She scares easily – apart from the very times when most other dogs would be frightened. On trains, on the underground and on the busy streets of London she is absolutely fine!
At home where it’s quieter she is spooked by anything different or unusual and is very wary when a person appears. She may rush at them, barking.
She is like this also when someone calls at their house.
The lady takes her to work and Crumpet reacts in the same way when someone enters her office. Though tethered, she rushes at them, barking.
The more people there are, the less wary Crumpet seems to be
The very strange thing is that in a crowded train she is friendly! She will even go to people for a fuss and sit on the floor beside them. The more people there are, the less wary Crumpet seems to be.
It does seem like there is a territorial element to it and she feels more threatened by people near to or in her home – the same at the office. Commonly dogs are worse when a person is standing. Understandably this is particularly the case when she is in an enclosed space or on lead (train carriage and London streets excepted).
It’s an odd thing, but often the fewer people there are the more threatened the dog feels, particularly if they appear suddenly or move quickly. Perhaps this is the same with ourselves? We can feel invisible in a crowd.
Reading the dog.
Because of how I set things up when I arrived, she was fine with me from the start. However, it was a bit different when I got up to go. I saw for myself just how easily Crumpet scares. She was sitting on the lady’s lap and I was now standing up. As I talked to the lady, standing quite close to her, I watched Crumpet. My nearness and the fact I was standing started her lip-licking and yawning. Then there was a little growl. All were clear signs that she was feeling very uncomfortable.
Had I not taken heed and backed away, no doubt next she would have rushed barking at me too.
Is she being protective? It’s possible. Whatever the reasons behind it, Crumpet should be helped in situations like this. This means learning to read her subtle signals, before it gets to the rushing and barking stage if possible. They should save her from any unwanted attention or increase distance.
She looks so gorgeous that she is a magnet for ‘dog-lovers’!
Sometimes Crumpet can cope better than at other times.
Crumpet is variable. There are occasions when she is less wary and reactive than others. This can only be to do with her own mental state at the time. The calmer, less-stressed and more confident she is in all aspects of her life, the better she will be able to cope with the things that scare her.
The nearer to home she is the more wary of people in particular she seems to be.
We will be concentrating on lowering her stress and excitement levels whilst also counter-conditioning her to things she’s wary of – people in particular – by building up positive associations and doing everything to keep her feeling safe. If she no longer sees people as a threat, then she has no need to feel protective – if protectiveness is part of it.
Crumpet is in such a frenzy of excitement before she even leaves the house, barking her way down the road. In this state one wouldn’t then expect a calm and considered reaction to anyone she might meet.
Progress is fastest when things are broken down into small steps.
The lady will work on getting through the door with a quiet dog! I have invented a sequence, like kind of game, involving waiting for quiet by a door, opening it, walking through with a quiet dog and returning again – over and over. Starting with inside doors, then the back door and finally the front door.
Next she will progress to walking Bracken quietly away from the door a small way before turning back – until they get to the end of the road.
I’m still puzzled by why Crumpet is so comfortable in the train! Possibly it’s because there is no territorial element.
The little dog who spooks at a rubbish bag appearing on the footpath is unfazed by the hiss of closing underground train doors. The dog who rushes at a person walking towards them in their own road is untroubled by people packed into a carriage.
We need to bottle this and take it home and to the office!
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 Crumpet and I’ve not gone 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 or aggression is 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 (see my Help page)