Beautiful Labrador Who Can’t Be Left

LabradorOscarI was quite worried before I met three-year-old Oscar and his lady owner. They live in a small flat with no garden, there have been complaints to the landlord about Oscar’s barking and he’s only been there for three weeks. He has already had altercations with a local off-lead Staffie.

Instead I met a young lady who was really switched on where dogs are concerned, having owned a greyhound that then retired with her as a pet and who is a Victoria Stilwell fan (advocate of Positive methods – Oscar himself was polite and self-controlled.

His problem is that he won’t let the lady out of his sight and he follows her around constantly. She is now house-bound. He had been a show dog and spent a lot of his time in a crate, but, living with three other dogs, was never entirely alone. Life is very different for him now and it’s understandable that he is insecure.

The lady has filmed Oscar when she left him for a short while. The crying starts after a couple of minutes and develops into barking and howling. When she arrives home the floor is soaking wet – probably with drool but possibly pee also. He is beside himself with distress.

Because of the neighbour’s complaint she got a citronella anti-bark collar but she has promised never to use that again as it would make her absence even more scary. To a dog whose most acute sense is that of smell, this would be like someone shining such a bright light into our eyes that we were temporarily blinded.

The only real way to solve the problem is to work on the cause – Oscars feelings; supression is guaranteed to make him feel a lot worse.

Fortunately the young lady is at home just now and she has a determined nature and will be taking it one step at a time, starting by shutting him behind the gate at the sitting room door, turning around, walking a couple steps away and then going back in again. Every time she goes out through the gate she will say ‘Back Soon’ and give the dog a treat. Every time she comes back in she will make it very boring by ignoring him. With baby steps she will eventually go out of sight, and then out of the front door briefly.

We want him to associate her departures with good stuff (not the torture of citronella) and to learn that however long she is away she always returns.

Possibly he is missing the crate – we are going to try that too because a crate can be a sort of safe den to dogs that are crate-trained from puppies. There are some other day to day things the young lady can do to increase Oscar’s confidence in her and to help him over his fears when he is on lead.

In a recent programme on Channel 4, The Secret Lives of Dogs, they proved by filming a number of dogs that about 80% of dogs suffer separation issues. They are left alone all day and their owners aren’t even aware of their suffering because many are silent and don’t do any damage. They may spend all day pacing and quietly crying, and nobody knows. Here is a short summary of the programme:

We bred dogs to work for us or to be our companions, and now in modern life we go out to work and leave them alone – ill-prepared.


Molly Panics When Left Alone

Little is known about German Shepherd Cross Molly’s past. She has been in the rescue centre for some months and kennelled with the company of another dog; it is evident she has had puppies.

She is a young dog.

Panics when man is out of sight

panics when left alone

Molly is finding it hard to settle into her new home and panics when her new gentleman owner disappears from her sight. She goes frantic.

In the four days they have had her, the man has been unable to leave her alone at night. Molly panics. She tries to break the door down to get to him. He doesn’t want her upstairs in the bedroom so he is sleeping downstairs in with her.

The lady is not well, and her anxiety is affecting Molly, I feel. It’s quite a clear example of how a dog picks up on the emotions of her humans. The man is calm. The lady is anxious.

Over the past few days things have been getting worse instead of better. The man even leaving the room but especially the house causes Molly great distress, she panics. The lady’s comfort and concern just doesn’t help.

In my photo Molly is still panting and stressed from the man having walked out of the front door for a minute to show me what happens.

Prisoner in his house.

The poor man is a prisoner in the house! To start with I have suggested that he doesn’t let Molly follow him around the house – starting with short absences only.

During the day lots of comings and goings are needed – not only from the room but also out of the front or back door. Absences of a few seconds to a minute only. Molly needs to realise that he man always comes back. The lady will be in the room so Molly won’t be all alone yet.

The lady can help more if she does things differently. At present she so anxious for Molly that she comforts and fusses her in her distress. This is compounding the matter. I have suggested she turns on TV or to reads a book, that she makes nothing of the man’s absence. Act like it’s normal.

It is hard for her because she is a very kind lady and she’s unwell. She adores the dog already and so badly wants to bond with her and help her.

Molly is not accustomed to being the centre of so much attention and love. From her body language I could sense that it’s a bit too much pressure on her. It’s like there are too many expectations of her. Possibly her attachment to the man is because he is more confident and doesn’t put demands upon her so she feels safe with him.

Who knows what baggage she has brought with her?

I’m not sure that dog and this couple are a good match. They are doing their very best.

Ten days later: Unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happy ending. The poor gentleman can’t cope with looking after the house and his sick wife, as well as a dog that needs a lot of time and effort spent on her. The emotionally-charged atmosphere around the lady was just too much for Molly, and due to her weakness she couldn’t physically cope when necessary. My contract with an owner is to help them in any way I can for as long as they need me. Sadly in this case it meant accompanying the man and Molly back to the re-homing kennels, giving them both moral support and helping ease his pain by reassuring him that he was doing the right thing for Molly. On the plus side, Molly seemed pleased to be back! For her it was like she had spent a fortnight away – boarding kennels in reverse! As I held her lead she was quite eager to go through gate to the kennel area with the barking dogs where she had spent so much time.
At least she now has some credentials other than having been found as a starving stray wandering the streets. They now know that she is house trained and well-mannered indoors and that she is friendly with visitors. She needs confident humans who won’t make too much fuss of her while they give her time to settle in. They also know that she needs company – possibly that of another dog. She is very re-homeable and will make a brilliant family pet.
It was sad watching the poor man handing over his beautiful black dog who was still wearing the new red collar he’d bought for her, along with her possessions including a large Stagbar. They had loved her but were just not the right home for her; nor was she the right dog for them. It happens.