Benji is just seven months old and never goes out beyond their garden.
The German Shepherd, Standard Poodle mix lived in a barn on the farm where he was born until he was four months old when he went to the young couple.
He had never encountered the real world of cars, noises, lots of people or other dogs beside the farm dogs and so on. He’d not been walked on lead.
As might be expected from a pup that had not being in a house until four months of age, he still has toilet accidents indoors.
He is scolded for this. They have a cat which he may want to chase but generally he is good with, and again he is scolded for going near it. He may steal socks or other clothes and chew them, which makes the young man angry with him.
A lot is expected of him.
His lifestyle isn’t ideal for a large, clever and active young dog but he is surprisingly good-natured. He greeted me with friendly interest.
At seven months he should be seeing sights and sounds outside and, most of all, he needs the exercise. He would love to play with another dog I am sure.
I suggested to the young man that Benji was probably going out of his mind with boredom and it’s surprising that the worst he does is to occasionally chew up clothes. Can he imagine being shut in all day with no TV or mobile phone and with nobody to talk to who understands him?
Even while Benji never goes out they can do a bit more about fulfilling his needs with appropriate activities and things to chew and do. The house is small and the garden isn’t big either, but they can feed him in a treat ball and sprinkle it all over the grass so that even meals can be used to give him some release.
It’s probably the lack of stimulation for Benji and the resulting stress that leads to some slightly worrying behaviours.
Besides drinking a lot he gets very excited around his water bowl, which is odd. If after a couple of weeks when his general stress levels should be lower this doesn’t change, then they will need to somehow get him to the vet. This is hard while he never goes out.
He pants, he scratches and nibbles himself and he sometimes chases his tail. He has some patches of skin showing.
The only way the man has managed to get him out at all has been to drag him by collar and lead, but he doesn’t want to do that again. He did once take him out with no lead at all – very risky.
Like all people who call me, they do it for love of their dog and wanting to do their best, and it’s a question of pointing them in the right direction.
Benji simply refuses to go outside the front door or garden gate.
They will now use comfortable equipment – a harness and a longer lead. The first step is to acclimatise him to the equipment around the house, associating with good things and food.
We have a plan of tiny increments involving, over the days and maybe weeks, holding the lead inside the door and then dropping it, touching the door handle, opening the door and standing in the doorway, letting him listen and look – and eat. Then stepping out. Then at the garden gate and so on – always leaving the front door open so he can bolt back if necessary.
From now onwards he must be allowed to make his own choice about going out – no more force. This is the only way to change a dog who never goes out into a dog who loves his walks.
When he’s no longer a pup that never goes out but a dog that can happily walk down the road and run around the fields, his life and general health should be transformed, but it could well take time. How will he be with other dogs after all this time? How will he be with traffic?
Most importantly, they can now see the benefits of reinforcing Benji with food for doing what they want instead of scolding The young man saw for himself how he himself can cause the dog’s behaviour. He stared at Benji in a ‘warning’ sort of way and the dog immediately ran to find the cat!
I could sum it up my advice in a few words: kindness works best.
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 Benji and I’ve not gone into exact 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. 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 Get Help page)