Obsession With Small Child. Fixated. Reactive.

She has obsession over the childMaddie, a delightful seven-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, has an obsession – the little grandson, now aged four.

I met a confident, relaxed and friendly little dog. I had left her alone to sniff and investigate me without trying to touch her until she was ready. Also, I was already seated before she joined us.

A new person walking directly towards a dog in a doorway, looming, can be intimidating.

Maddie is a very friendly and well socialised little dog, great with most people. She is particularly reactive to children however.

Her main problem is the little grandson – we will call him Jack.

Jack is a very good with Maddie. He treats her with respect. They have known each other since he was born.

He is now getting fed up with her behaviour towards him – even a a bit scared.

Maddie has an obsession: Jack.

As soon as he arrives Maddie is running at him, jumping up and barking. It’s excitement to see him for sure, but is it pure pleasure? I doubt it.

This generates a lot of human excitement and understandable scolding. The dog is getting worse.

All the time Jack is moving about, Maddie is barking at him. She rushes up the stairs ahead of him, barking down at him. When he goes downstairs she rushes ahead of him, barking up at him.

When he sits down she stops barking but she sits right beside him, staring at him.

He may now be able to move about slowly – though she will be at his heels. If he runs, as children do, she will begin to bark again.

Maddie is very agitated.

So far I haven’t actually seen this for myself. My assessment is from close questioning rather than observation. They have some groundwork to put in place first before having Jack round again.

It is obvious that Maddie has some sort of fascination for Jack. She seems excited and scared of him in equal measure. It sounds like she seems to want to control him, herd him. The herding theory is plausible. Schnauzers and Miniature Schnauzers were originally used as cattle herding dogs.

Being a child, Jack will naturally be somewhat unpredictable. He has become Maddie’s obsession.

The plan is for them to have a well-rehearsed short visit with Jack, dealing with Maddie completely differently but without me there to complicate things or cause any extra excitement.

Then Jack will make second visit with me already there.

An unused trump card.

Instead of trying to stop Maddie from behaving like this using scolding and restraint, they will be upbeat. They will sound encouraging and reward her for being quiet instead. They will reinforce her when she looks away from him – with food. They’ve not tried using food for reward and reinforcement so they have a big, unplayed, trump card!

They will now think in terms of helping her out rather than disciplining her. This will mean putting her on ‘remote control’ by working on a solid, bright and encouraging ‘Maddie Come!’ so that she immediately comes away from Jack when asked to. This is part of the groundwork.

Setting the scene.

Most importantly, the scene needs to be set in the best way to help Maddie, so that when she comes into Jack’s presence she’s not already highly aroused and barking.

Managed in this way, both Jack and the adult humans will be a lot calmer and less anxious, which Maddie should pick up on.

She will be out of the way when Jack arrives. He will already be sitting down when, much calmer, she is brought in to join him. She will then be given things to occupy her mind and help her to calm – she would love a Kong or a chew. The session will be kept very short.

After this initial ‘trial’ session, I will be there for the second session to see for myself what is now happening. I can make sure we are using the very best tactics for both Jack and Maddie.

Email couple of weeks later: I’m pleased to let you know we had Jack round for a couple of hours and the difference was immense. Did exactly as you asked and it worked very well. Jack enjoyed hiding her food as well.

 

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 Maddie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear or aggression issues of any kind are concerned – particularly anything involving children. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. 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)

Opening Window, Panic Attack

Border Collie Jasper panics and obsesses over windows opening, flies and shadows

Jasper

Suddenly a large fly was buzzing around the room and Jasper lost it! He barked, flew all over the place and jumped at us all.

When the lady goes to open the window to let a fly out he has a panic attack – after barking and leaping about, he jumps up onto the sofa, eyes darting, drooling.

It is the opening of windows that seems to be causing Jasper’s distress. It may be the noise, it may be reflections – perhaps both.

He is somewhat obsessive with shadows and flies, but knowing that a buzzing fly is usually followed by the window being opened to let it out is what really sets him off.

I demonstrated how to begin to desensitise him to the window opening, expecting it to be a slow and gradual process. However, this evening, a few hours later and to my great surprise, I received this: ‘We have already been able to open and close the windows in the living room and kitchen without a peep from Jasper!’

Border Collie Jasper is 18-months old and lives with a young lady and her mother. The young girl has worked really hard and done a wonderful job with him. He was well socialised right from the start and she has spent time, love and effort training him.

Jasper and Pixie

Recently they got 8-month-old Pixie, the most tiny Chihuahua Yorkie cross you have ever seen and who is quite a barker. This will be influencing Jasper. The two are kept apart much of the time for fear of the little one getting hurt, but for the few minutes I saw them together Jasper was wonderful. He lay down so Pixie could get to him – it’s Pixie who is the rough one!

Jasper just needs a bit more mental stimulation and a bit less stressful stimulation – it is a fine line. Too much ball throwing on walks is seldom a good thing – he needs to sniff, wander and explore.

I demonstrated how relaxed and settled he became after about fifteen minutes of using his wonderful brain and clicker. We worked on a strategy to divert him from obsessing on shadows.

Where Jasper is fine with other dogs when he is off lead, he’s not so good on lead – and he is a big puller.

The young lady will now be using wholly positive techniques to get her lovely dog to walk near her because he wants to and not because he has to. She also now knows how to work on his fears when, trapped on lead, he sees another dog.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Jasper, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Troubled Jack Russell

Jack Russell Jack;s tummy is red and sore from compulsive licking himself

Jack

Jack Russell Jill is sitting in her bed

Jill

Little Jack is ten years old and lives with Jill who is also ten.

They are both very good little dogs as far as obedience is concerned, but both, Jack in particular, is troubled. Although both dogs have a very good life with a loving and sensible owner, it is possible that something in the past is overshadowing their present life, because their change in behaviour coincided with that particular time.

Jack is unsettled and this is manifesting itself in regularly marking and peeing indoors, in growling when he is made to do something and by compulsively licking himself. There are one or two people he is scared of to the point of aggression.

He looks relaxed on the right, as he was when I took the photo, but one can see his red and sore front due to the obsessive licking.

Jill also is stressed but to a lesser extent. They may be left alone for a long time and bark and cry intermittently throughout the day.

Jack and Jill at peace

Jack and Jill

We looked at all the possible causes of stress in the little dogs’ life at the moment – and this includes anything that stirs them up in any way, and the list can be surprisingly long. Here are some of them:  being left alone, post coming through the door, scolding, being told off and commands, humans being cross, Jill obsessively licking Jack, Jack persistently licking or humping Jill, Jack chewing and licking himself and being told off, behaviour of visitors and family, going to other houses, vacuum cleaner, excitement before walks or going in the car, discomfort and tension when being walked on lead, agility classes, obsessive ball play, barking itself increases stress, constant jingling of collar tags.

So we are finding ways of reducing stress in every way possible. Being consistent is essential. Using encouragement and reward rather than commands and scolding is also key.

There is the dear little Jack on the left, and lying in their bed with Jill below.

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