On the face of it, Milly’s connection with the emotions of her human is very different from the last pair of dogs I went to, who so closely picked up on the owner’s anxiety. Milly is laid-back, quiet and mellow where her lady is animated and chatty. But maybe there is some connection? The dog herself doesn’t have to make much effort. All she has to do is wait and food and attention are showered upon her. Maybe consequently both have lost some of their value.
This is observation not criticism; she has turned out really well.
Two-year-old Milly is an Ovcharka mix – an Ovcharka is a Caucasian Shepherd dog bred for protecting humans and hunting bears. It’s hard to see the resemblance in Milly. I am promised that there is no Labrador in her and the mix includes Boxer and Staffie.
Milly is a wonderfully friendly and gentle dog and much of this is due to a dedicated owner who has trained and socialised her from the start.
She has just three issues really. She hates getting into the car and travelling, her recall depends upon whether she has something better to do, and just occasionally she puts other dogs she doesn’t know ‘in their place’, but only if the lady is fussing them. The lady feels obliged to make a fuss of the other dog because of the petting the very friendly Milly receives but it makes the dog jealous. This, and possible possessiveness over something edible, only happens when Milly is with the lady, not with her other walkers.
It’s clear this is largely to do with the relationship between them.
At home Milly is unintentionally encouraged to feel that she is in charge of food. Every day, instead of breakfast, a smorgasbord of goodies is left around the house for her. If any of her evening meal, laced with tasty chicken to tempt her, is uneaten, it will be left down until she is ready to finish it. The downside is there is nothing left that is special enough to reward her with and on account of so many extras she is never hungry. The best way to get a balanced feeding routine around a single dog is to imagine you have four as I do.
The recall and reactivity issues really aren’t about training at all, more about Milly’s relationship with the lady who simply needs to be more relevant (again, this is nothing to do with love – love goes without saying) and sufficiently inspiring to race back to.
Milly has always hated the car, ever since she was driven many miles as a puppy to her new home, sick and toileting in terror. She tries to avoid getting in the car although the lady has made sure all journeys end somewhere nice. Lots of patience will be needed and constant repetition around the car, looking at it, touching it, opening the door, getting in and straight out of it, very short journeys round a car park repeated over and over along with constant feeding of something really special. At present the shortest journey is ten minutes – too long.
Many people would give their eye teeth for a dog like Milly. Friendly, polite, fun and good with all other dogs who she loves to play with – the only exception is the circumstances mentioned.
I have been reliably informed that Milly’s dad was actually a Central Asian Ovcharka/Shepherd and this makes a lot more sense. (ears and tail traditionally docked).
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Milly, 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 dog (see my Get Help page).