Mixed Up, Depressed Mastiff Staffie Cross

Bull mastiff Buster is mixed upFrom time to time I go to people where the man is calm and confident with the dog. The lady cuddles and loves him, lets him make all his own decisions, but is much less assertive.

The dog becomes increasingly bonded with the man and behaves like the lady is not particularly relevant.

He seems mixed up

The couple I went to see this evening have had two-year-old Mastiff Staffie cross Buster for six months now.

Buster’s life revolves around the man and he takes little notice of the lady – especially when the man is at home. Despite her gentle and affectionate nature, Buster can be quite scared of her for no accountable reason.

He loves to lie down between them on the sofa. One evening while he was fast asleep she reached out and touched him. In panic he jumped up and ran upstairs where she found him cowering and shaking. This distressed her too. One can only speculate what damage a previous female owner may have done to him that’s made him so mixed up.

Confidence around other dogs

Knowing that he wasn’t confident around other dogs, his new lady has worked really hard, for weeks walking him with other dogs and making great headway. Then, very disappointingly, a quarrel with another dog over a stick turned into a fight. The lady shouted. This terrified the mixed up Buster. He now refuses to walk with her any more unless near to home.

Now she panics whenever they see another dog, so walks that were previously enjoyable are now a disaster for them both.

With the gentleman walks are fine!

Added to this, they had to have Buster castrated as agreed with the re-homing organisation. Since then his personality changed. He seems depressed. Is it coincidence? Who knows. I saw a photo of him previously and he looked alert and happy. Now he is mostly worried and sleepy.

The first part of our plan is to work on the lady’s own confidence and for her to walk Buster near home only. This is where they are both happy. She will play a ‘guess where we are going’ game. She will rehearse what she will do when they see a dog, so that when it happens she is ready.

Buster is scared and doesn’t feel safe so if she, too, is in a panic she can’t help him.

The gentleman is decisive and confident so it’s little surprise that the nervous, mixed up Buster puts his faith in him.

And now, after about one month: “Buster is doing so well!! he is like a puppy again!! when i get his lead out for a walk he gets excited and actually walks like a proper dog down the road rather than plodding along with head down and when we let him off the lead he actually goes for a run and explore instead of sticking by our feet. he absolutley loves the field now and he gets so excited when he knows we are heading up there now!!
Last night something amazing happened, buster was far ahead of me on our walk and i could see his ears and tail go up so i knew he had spotted a dog i shouted to him ‘wait’ and he simply sat down. when i caught up i couldn’t see anything so i told him to continue and as i turned the corner i saw a young man with a huge bull mastiff ! buster didn’t even try and go over but simply looked at the dog and continued walking!! his hairs didn’t go up, he didn’t go over to the dog and he didn’t bark or growl!!  he just looked at me as if to say ‘lets go’!! i was so proud that even though he could see a dog he still sat and waited like he had been asked, and he didnt go and start with the other dog just carried on. he was so happy last night and i am hoping this was not a one off!!! he run all round the field and played in the garden for nearly 2 hours with a ball when we got home!! …..he even went and got his colar from his box and in effect asked for a walk,for a dog that never wanted to leave the house this is such an achievement!!

Little Floyd Has Lost his ‘Joie de Vivre’.

Floyd is a worried dogFloyd used to have such enthusiasm for life, but this has slowly changed over the past few months.

He also started to toilet in the house and it’s gradually becoming more frequent, particular when his owners have come home from another trip. Something seems to have traumatised him and a bit of detective work may have unearthed what that is.

The couple have had the eight-year-old Jack Russell cross (there must be Daschund or Beagle in there somewhere!) since he was a puppy, and he has always gone everywhere with them. They have geared holidays around places where he can be taken. This year they have been away four times. They leave him at home with their son and daughter (aged 22 and 18) so you would think that would be no problem. A couple of months ago immediately before they left him behind, the gentleman took him for his usual walk. He rounded a corner ahead of the man (something I advise shouldn’t happen) and was attacked by another dog. Then, as soon as they got home, the couple left him. The suitcases were in the hallway and they were ready to go.

Each time they have returned from being away they have found him increasingly nervous and skittish, and the toileting has increased. When they come home from work he no longer greets them but stays in his bed. Even a pending walk is no longer anything special. He regularly displays signs that he is trying to keep calm – he lifts his paw a lot, he licks his lips and he yawns.

The dear little dog has always been the easiest dog you could wish for with a wonderful temperament, so they have got away with more than they might otherwise in terms of running around after his every wish and over-exciting him. The gentleman in particular jumps to his every wish. Floyd only has to bark and the man is on his hands and knees! The son winds him up with rough play until he can hardly cope. The lady is firmer. Floyd lacks the security that comes from consistent rules and boundaries.

We owe it to our dogs to provide them with ‘leadership’ in terms of guidance and decision-making.

All his family want is for him to be back to his old self, and they are willing to do whatever it takes. They have had him thoroughly checked over by the vet, because in cases where a dog’s behaviour changes a physical reason must be ruled out.

Depressed but Comes Alive When Alone

Daisy is anxious and uneasyDaisy is a Labrador X. She was originally found at one year old starving, pregnant and tied to a lamp post. She has lived with her family for six years now. Until a few weeks ago she was happy, outgoing and willing.

For the past two or three months Daisy has become a different dog. She looks miserable and has shut down. She has little interest in food or play. She seldom gets up when people come home. Consequently the family are falling over themselves to humour her and wait upon her. She is the centre of much conversation and anxiety. She will sense this.

I was called out because, from a dog that never jumped up on anything, not even chairs, she has taken to jumping on window sills, kitchen surfaces and even the piano keys. This happens only when they are out or in bed. Valuables have gone flying. When they come into the room the owners are met with a panting, excited and stressed dog; frantically appeasing behaviour.

It is hard to get to the root of this for sure – but I can guess.  First, I made sure she had been thoroughly checked over by the vet.

Probably, weeks or months ago, Daisy had started by creeping onto beds. In retrospect there had been evidence ofdaisy this. Because there was nobody there to say ‘no’, she probably thought it was OK while she was alone. A dog isn’t going to reason things the same way as we do. She probably started to increase her activities and jump on more and more things, unchecked. Then there was an incident in the middle of the night when the TV suddenly came on loudly and the parents rushed downstairs thinking they had burglars, and Daisy was terrified. She possibly could have caused this herself by jumpng on the remote control.

The owners, who know their dog well, are convinced that she knows she’s being ‘naughty’ by jumping on things. If they are right, it’s logical to suppose she took their reaction to her excited, appeasing behaviour before they knew what was happening as endorsement for what she had been doing. Then later, out of the blue (to Daisy, and because there was damage as evidence), one day they were angry. Then another time she was smacked.

The official line is that dogs don’t feel guilt (read ‘In Defence of Dogs’ by John Bradshaw). They are, however, absolute experts in detecting human mood and body language. From the moment the person opens the door she will read how they feel and consequently, especially remembering previous anger, she will be grovelling, jumping up, panting and appeasing them.

The gentleman took timed photo clips one night. No panic! Daisy’s tail is relaxed and she’s not showing any signs of stress. She is systematically and calmly, without a care in the world, jumping up on things, something I’m sure that she believes she is allowed to do when she’s alone. I suspect now not only is it a habit, but because she is under so much pressure during the day by the anxiety around her and to ‘perform’, when she’s alone she feels a terrific sense of release and simply does just what she feels like doing because she can.

From a predictable life where she thought she knew what was what, things are now a puzzling mess. Humans are falling over themselves  to ‘make her happy’, giving her far too much attention and deference, then being unpredictably cross with her. The more they try to bring her out, the more she withdrawn she becomes. The more withdrawn she is, the more approval she seems to receive. She will feel that they want her to be withdrawn.

Whether or not I have the details quite right, backing right off is key. Fortunately Daisy is happy in a crate so she no longer will have free run when left alone. The situation can be managed while they readjust the balance of their relationship with their dog, however long it takes.

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