Doberman Rocky is just 9 months old, and he was rehomed by a young couple just two weeks ago.
Puppy left alone for too long
Although he wasn’t physically neglected, he had spent some very formative months of his young life without proper ‘parenting’. Consequently he’s somewhat ‘emotionally damaged’ just as a child might be that had been left alone for too long.
Rocky had spent much of the time as a puppy left alone, outside in a small yard, an environment the lonely puppy will have found scary. Unsurprisingly he barked constantly with probably a mix of fear and loneliness; nobody will have helped him out and it would be a safe guess that he would have been shouted at for barking.
Having lived like this for crucial months in his development, it is unsurprising that barking at everything is his default now. Tail chasing has become his default way of dealing with stress. Rocky can’t cope at all with being left alone, even for a minute, and when the lady comes back into the room he will madly tail-chase. As is so often the case, it goes on in a sort of sequence. He chases round and round with his tail in his mouth. He then freezes and just sucks the tail, maybe making whimpering sounds. It is virtually impossible to distract him.
He doesn’t feel safe
The bottom line is that for much of the time Rocky simply doesn’t feel safe – though things are certainly looking up for him now he has a lovely home. Any sounds outside sends him into a barking frenzy. I caught him, on the right, just as he thought he may have heard something.
Walking, too, is difficult. He walked beautifullly on a loose lead indoors, but was hyper-alert once outside the door. Getting him to feel safe and protected, desensitising and habituating him to normal sounds – kids out the front, dogs barking, bikes and so on – will take time and patience. They have made considerable progress in these two weeks however. The lady takes him to work so he meets people. He is very friendly and polite for an adolescent pup, and only scared of people if they approach too directly, stare or loom over him.
The panic barking, the hyper-vigilance when out in particular, the panic at being left alone and the tail-chasing are going to take weeks or months of counter-conditioning and confidence-building, the bottom line being to reduce the stress caused by his hyper-vigilance and to make him feel safe. I believe then that everything else will gradually fall into place.
You won’t have a quiet dog if he’s on high alert, and you won’t have a dog that is happy to be left alone that is on high alert either. Walking calmly on a loose lead won’t happen whilst he is on high alert.
Tail-chasing is simply the way, over the months, he has learnt to cope.
Things are now changing for the beautiful Rocky! The future is bright and he should end up a happy, carefree dog.