Going for feet is recent. They have come a long way with their four-year-old rescue English Bull Terrier in the year or so they have had him. He no longer pulls on lead and is a lot better when they meet other dogs.
However, this behaviour has developed in the last couple of months. Possibly it’s something resurfacing that he did in his previous two homes.
Casper started going for feet. Now it’s faces too. He’s not yet drawn blood but it is only a matter of time.
We need to look at why he does it, and deal with that.
It seems that when he’s sufficiently aroused he just can’t help himself. Like a pressure cooker, he explodes.
We looked at each and every episode to try to find a pattern. It seemed to them that he was unpredictable, but when analysed there are two clear things in common.
One is that he only attacks feet when other people are in their house. He then goes for feet of both both his owners and the visitors.
The other common denominator is that every time, without exception, he has been petted and fussed by the people. On one occasion a caller even continued to fuss him while Casper was repeatedly going for his sturdy work boots.
It’s possible he is being mis-read. He may lie on his back and this is taken for an invitation for a tummy tickle. This very often isn’t the case.
The fussing and touching, combined with people moving about, preparation of food and metallic kitchen noises which he hates can be the final straw. Then a visitor just coming down the stairs may send him over the edge.
If the ancestors of an English Bull Terrier, like other bullies, were originally bred for fighting other dogs as well as bull baiting, possibly when he loses it Casper defaults to breed instinct by going for feet and faces.
I also believe that it’s not caused only by what happens immediately before the incidents, but by the build-up of stress from one, two or more days beforehand.
No more rehearsing going for feet.
In order to work on this he must not be allowed to rehearse going for feet anymore. For now this will involve keeping him on lead or muzzled when people come, behind a gate or tied to an anchor point.
They can train him something incompatible with going for feet when people move about, like lying down with something to chew.
Most importantly, all guests including family must be asked not to fuss and touch him at all for now.
They will need lots of friends to act as guinea-pigs, coming and going, until Casper realises that people coming to his house is no big deal and nothing to get worked up about.
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 Casper and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you 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, particularly where aggression is concerned. 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)