Obsessed with balls. Chasing sticks.

chasing sticks. Chasing ballsIt is sometimes hard to determine whether changes in a re-homed dog’s behaviour after a couple of weeks or so is due to settling in and old traits resurfacing, or to something the new people are themselves are doing. Probably a mix of both.

They have had delightful two-year-old DJ for about six weeks now and a couple of behaviour problems have surfaced that are getting worse.

Obsessed with balls

He is becoming increasingly obsessed with balls – but only as a tool to get people doing what he wants. As soon as anyone sits down he is constantly dropping the ball on them, waiting for it to be thrown. He is very winning and it’s hard not to do it – see the photo!

He’s not interested, however, if someone other than himself chooses to get a ball and throw it for him!

Less experienced people often believe extreme excercise is the cure to behaviour issues when in fact it can be the opposite. There is a happy balance. TV trainers with gimmicks are partly to blame. ‘Exhaust the dog and he will be good’! How do you feel if you are exhausted?

Chasing sticks

JD is much more strung up after his long walks with lots of chasing sticks than before he goes out. On the way back home he may lunge and bark at cars, something he doesn’t do on the way out. Then, once home, instead of being satisfied, he’s is in a very highly strung and agitated state, desperately seeking to unwind. If he can’t find a ball he shakes. He may chew his feet.

We are working out whether to go cold turkey with the balls, whether to offer him very short ball sessions but only instigated by the owners and not in the sitting room, or whether to give him something good to chew to distract him. I favour the latter if he will have it because the act of chewing produces calming chemicals in the body.

The second problem is that they are now wary of touching him. He leaps onto them whenever he feels like it, which would be okay if he didn’t then growl if they move, especially if he’s sleepy.

It seems the more they fall over themselves to please him and make him happy, the worse he gets. The daughter, who is a nanny, understood quite quickly what he needs – very much the same as the two children in her care need in order to feel secure, calm and happy. This isn’t constant attention, the grown-ups obeying their every demand, over-stimulating exercise and play, eating whenever they like and so on. It is quality time, play times, peaceful times, meal times, rules, boundaries and consistency, trusting the adults to make the important decisions – and plenty to occupy their brains!

Westie – A Very Important Dog

Westie Hamish is the KingLook at him! This is Hamish, a Very Important Dog, and he knows it.

He is no trouble at all most of the time but he has his family jumping to his bidding.  He has them up and down opening the garden door, and then may decide he doesn’t want to go out anyway. He takes them his food bowl when he wants food, and obediently they fill it. Whenever he brings them a toy, they will always play. When he wants to be fussed or touched, they always oblige.

However, things are a bit different if they want to do something with him, if his own space is invaded.  He has bitten several times, mostly when they take his collar to either inspect his feet or groom him. When they go into his space he may back into a corner and bite. He has been chewing his back feet, but they can’t inspect them.

He went absolutely frantic at the vets recently, biting his male owner in the car park and having to be restrained with a catch pole in the surgery. This sort of experience will guarantee future vet visits will be even worse, if that’s possible.

If his owners give him better leadership and make him work a little for some of their attention, Hamish should then start to value them when they want to attend to him. They need to learn not to corner him – we wouldn’t like that either. He needs to want to come over to them – to please them. He needs to learn that to get attention he sometimes has to work for it.

For dogs that have problems with people invading their personal space, you need to work slowly and imagine how it feels to the dog. First, I would say that putting him somewhere high to groom him, maybe a garden table, would be less challenging for him. It all has to be done in tiny increments, starting with him being happy simply being lifted on and off the table. Then he can be massaged and touched in areas where he’s less touchy – no brush or scissors in sight. All the time he needs to be watched for signs of stress, as that is the time to stop that particular session.

He needs to change vets to give him a fresh start. There is a vet nearby at the back of a pet shop. This would mean he first would smell toys and treats, he could be called through at the last moment. He could be taken there beforehand a few times to buy his dog food. He also needs to be weaned into wearing a muzzle, and this also need to be done in tiny increments, until he’s happy wearing it around the house. It’s essential that the muzzle is not associated with going to the vet.

In other respects Hamish is a chilled and confident little dog and no trouble at all (apart from being another Westie like I met a couple of weeks ago that barks at animals on telly!). A beautiful boy.

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