Ruby’s owners have been living the sort of nightmare that would be a dog owners’ worst dream. She has never been good with other dogs, but one day a couple of months ago she killed an elderly Sheltie. One can only imagine what this must have been like for his owner. The repercussions have been huge, involving the police, the council and a local petition to have Ruby put down. The owners are conscientious dog owners and they are devastated. They now walk Ruby on lead only apart from one special place where they have never seen other dogs, and she is then muzzled. She is even muzzled from the house to the car – just in case.
At home, apart from a short bout of wary guard barking when someone arrives, Ruby is the model dog indoors. She is extremely well behaved and peaceful, if aloof. In her quiet way she politely rules the roost, which dog owners often can’t see for themselves when they are living in the middle of it. Once out of the door however, Ruby becomes a different dog. She believes she should decide where to go and she pulls ahead. She believes she is the one on protection duty. She is ready to see off any other dog and I fear in the case of the little Sheltie because he froze, Ruby dealt with him as she saw fit. It could have been exacerbated by the human panic from both owners rushing at her and shouting, as Ruby stood over him. She believes anything that moves is prey for her to hunt.
Ruby is now seven years old and came to live with them at the age of three; the damage will probably have been done already. Whilst they are doing everything they can to play safe for the sake of any other dogs they may meet and also for Ruby herself, they have now called me out to do something about the root of the problem – controlling Ruby’s prey drive, protectiveness and freelancing. She makes the decisions – so once again it is a leadership (dog ‘parenting’) issue.
Ruby’s owners are prepared to do whatever it takes, and realise that there is no quick fix. Leadership starts at home. If ‘her ladyship’ is selective about coming over to them in the house whilst always getting any attention she wants on her own terms, why would she take much notice of them when called if she has another dog in view or a rabbit to chase?
What we are looking to achieve in the end is for Ruby to be trustworthy so far as taking no notice of other dogs, and to focus on them instead which will require bomb-proof recall. ‘Socialising’ is unrealistic.