Obsessed with balls. Chasing sticks.

chasing sticks. Chasing ballsIt is sometimes hard to determine whether changes in a re-homed dog’s behaviour after a couple of weeks or so is due to settling in and old traits resurfacing, or to something the new people are themselves are doing. Probably a mix of both.

They have had delightful two-year-old DJ for about six weeks now and a couple of behaviour problems have surfaced that are getting worse.

Obsessed with balls

He is becoming increasingly obsessed with balls – but only as a tool to get people doing what he wants. As soon as anyone sits down he is constantly dropping the ball on them, waiting for it to be thrown. He is very winning and it’s hard not to do it – see the photo!

He’s not interested, however, if someone other than himself chooses to get a ball and throw it for him!

Less experienced people often believe extreme excercise is the cure to behaviour issues when in fact it can be the opposite. There is a happy balance. TV trainers with gimmicks are partly to blame. ‘Exhaust the dog and he will be good’! How do you feel if you are exhausted?

Chasing sticks

JD is much more strung up after his long walks with lots of chasing sticks than before he goes out. On the way back home he may lunge and bark at cars, something he doesn’t do on the way out. Then, once home, instead of being satisfied, he’s is in a very highly strung and agitated state, desperately seeking to unwind. If he can’t find a ball he shakes. He may chew his feet.

We are working out whether to go cold turkey with the balls, whether to offer him very short ball sessions but only instigated by the owners and not in the sitting room, or whether to give him something good to chew to distract him. I favour the latter if he will have it because the act of chewing produces calming chemicals in the body.

The second problem is that they are now wary of touching him. He leaps onto them whenever he feels like it, which would be okay if he didn’t then growl if they move, especially if he’s sleepy.

It seems the more they fall over themselves to please him and make him happy, the worse he gets. The daughter, who is a nanny, understood quite quickly what he needs – very much the same as the two children in her care need in order to feel secure, calm and happy. This isn’t constant attention, the grown-ups obeying their every demand, over-stimulating exercise and play, eating whenever they like and so on. It is quality time, play times, peaceful times, meal times, rules, boundaries and consistency, trusting the adults to make the important decisions – and plenty to occupy their brains!

English Bull Terrier Obsessed With Balls

English Bull Terrier Archie taking a break form chasing ballsArchie’s life, from the moment he wakes in the morning, revolves around balls. He fixates on them. He has dens in the garden where he lies, staring at them.

From the moment the lady appears in the morning Archie was banging a ball into her legs until she starts to kick it about. She ‘has to’ play ball before anything else. The gentleman refuses to oblige so the whole behaviour centres around the lady. When they have guests, the gentleman talks to them while the lady kicked balls around the garden. She may throw several balls at once. We sat in the garden and I could see at least six.

It may sound ridiculous written down, but this has crept up on her gradually and to her seemed quite sensible. She is doing it out of devotion to her dog, concerned he’s getting enough exercise and stimulation.

We soon saw what happened if she ignored him! He was digging holes in the lawn, running off with bits of wood, digging up and playing with plants – anything in fact that might get attention. And it did!!

I put him on a long line and we worked on calling him away from these things and to us, rewarding him as he came (he had no choice because I drew him gently in each time) and before long he was lying spark out in the sunshine. We discussed harmless and more constructive occupations he could be offered to give him some healthy alternative activity.

To start with the lady was looking very tense. It was her belief that her dog needed constant stimulation and that she was being cruel to ignore him. She was living in constant guilt – even feeling guilty if she leaves him for a couple of hours though they have evidence that he’s perfectly OK.  When they are out they have a web cam to watch him.

As she began to see things more from Archie’s point of view the lady visibly began to relax. She was beginning to see that by the constant playing and activity she was simply winding him up. Wherever she was Archie wanted balls, not the lady for herself but as a ball thrower.

On walks he would sometimes become so excited that he would circle and leap and bite at the man. It’s like he was being constantly wound up with a big key and was over-wound. There is a school of thought, encouraged by Cesar Millan (it’s possible in order to make good TV we don’t see a balance), that in order to make a dog good you have to exercise the hell out of it. Whilst I agree there are many dogs who get far too little exercise and stimulation, there are only a few breeds designed for sustained activity.

Anyway, they are going to put Archie out of the way and they are going on a ball hunt to remove all balls! There is going to be no more ball play for quite a while and then it will only be with a ball they produce and that they put away again afterwards. Meanwhile, they will try a frisbee – one Frisbee – or a ring which they won’t leave him with. Then they will look at more constructive and less stimulating pastimes for him – natural things like chewing a bone or even a sand pit for the terrier in him to dig in.

He is a really lovely natured dog, who without this constant stimulation, fuss and worry will grow into a wonderful well-balanced adult dog.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.