As is often the case with a rehomed older dog, it’s impossible to know how that dog will be when he has had time to settle into his new home and a totally different lifestyle. When a dog has probably spent his recent years shut indoors, it is hardly surprising when there are issues around other dogs.
Dear little Max, age eleven, has been rehomed by Oldies Club. Like many older dogs, he has been the loved pet of a person who through age or infirmity has no longer been able to look after him properly. Max now has a new lease of life living with an active couple and their other Border Terrier, thirteen year old Katie.
Because there were dogs that he was fine with, it was assumed he would be okay with all dogs. The new owners got a shock when, soon after they had brought him home, Max and a relative’s small dog, as soon as they clapped eyes on one another, broke into a fight. Since then there have been some other incidents resulting in walks not being enjoyable and the couple now having to curtail some of the previous activities they had enjoyed with the placid and dog-friendly Katie.
Having asked lots of questions to get a good feel for the situation against a background of the great many dogs and people I have been to, I got a clear picture of what needs to be done.
Like so many dogs, the issue may be of other dogs on walks, but there are things to put in place first at home in order to optimise their strategies when out. I likened it to a tripod – three ‘legs’ to hold firm and ‘other dogs out on walks’ to then be placed on top (house built on rock, not sand).
The first thing is to address the barking at dogs from his own home. There is a truly aggressive-sounding dog the other side of the fence so there is a lot of boundary running and barking from the two of them, filling Max with fear and honing his dog-aggression skills. He also is on watch at the front window from the back of the sofa. Not only can the couple take responsibility for danger and lookout duty, they can also do some serious desensitisation and counter-conditioning work in their own garden.
The second thing is that both dogs are overfed with food left down all the time. We preferably want to be able to work with food so Max has to be a bit more hungry and food needs more value – so they have work to do rationing food and making it harder to come by.
Thirdly is to keep his general stress levels as low as possible. They have already noticed that his ‘aggression’ episodes have taken place after a run of minor things has occurred that will have gradually stacked up – loading the gun so to speak.
With these things in place, they can now work on the ‘other dogs’ issue. We have a step-by-step plan.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dog 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 dog (see my Get Help page).