People Too Close to Each Other. Connor Story Part One.

Connor’s will be a story in two parts. This first story is about Connor and his frantic agitation when two people get too close to each other.

He came to them a year ago, probably only weeks away from death. The dog, scarred with broken teeth, scared and skinny, had stopped eating. He had been in the kennels for two years and seemed to have lost the will to live.

From the moment the couple took him in, the Staffie Greyhound mix, now five, surrounded by patient love began to blossom.

Too close to each other or hugging.

Frantic when people too close to each otherFrom the start Connor became agitated when either the man moved too close to the lady, or when the lady approached the man. Continue reading…

Compulsive Behaviour. ‘Stress Bucket’ Overflows.

Rottweiler Amber has a lovely temperament, friendly and confident. They have obviously come a long way with her compulsive shadow-chasing etc. in the two years since they adopted her at six months old. She was already doing it then. Her problems probably are due to a mix of genetics and what her life was before she came to live with them.

Unless all is still and quiet, Amber doesn’t settle.

The smallest thing prompts a compulsive sequence of chasing shadows, digging the floor or licking the carpet. She won’t leave their other dog alone.

Outside on walks she chases shadows – particularly those caused by people; she runs back and forth from the sun then digs and pants.

It’s distressing to see her become so frenzied with so little provocation.

Rottie with compulsive behaviourApart from this compulsive behaviour, Amber is a dream dog. A friendly, gentle Rottie that is good with other dogs and people. No trouble. She lives with people who give her plenty of time, training and enrichment.

From her constant patrolling and panting, it’s obvious that her internal stress levels are so high that frequently she simply can’t cope. Her ‘stress bucket‘ is ready to  overflow.

Stress accumulates and can last in the system for days, and dogs like Amber live in a constant ‘ready for action’ state.

It then erupts into certain patterns of compulsive behaviour that must give her relief in some way.

When she frantically digs, licks the floor or chases shadows etc, she completely focusses on something that is shutting out real life.

In a weird way it may give her some control.

The smallest thing starts her off. Over time these rituals become a habit – learned behaviour.

They have been using distraction, commands, gentle massage, food and so on. This attempts to deal with the situations as they happen, without getting to the root cause of the compulsive behaviour.

Shutting her in her crate is the only way to give both Amber and her humans a break at times. Interestingly, after a quiet night in her crate with hours to de-stress, she starts the day calm.

We will start by concentrating on one thing only – bringing down her arousal levels. Taking away as much pressure as possible. ‘Operation Calm’. They should make stress-reduction a priority.

Let’s then see what happens and reassess.

When I was there we found that a ball made a great pacifier. With a ball in her mouth she is a lot better, although she then persistently uses it to ‘tease’ by nudging with it without letting the person have it.

We also captured calm moments with clicker and food (until she stole my clicker!).

Over the next few days I have asked them to spot areas they might be able do something about, with a calmer Amber being their end aim.

They will look out for any things that stir her up (looking for lip-licking, panting, drooling etc.) and see if there is any way they can change them (there may not be).

Every little helps – every small piece of the jigsaw.

I’ve listed some of the things in Amber’s life I thought of that possibly cause elements of stress/arousal, even if at the same time she likes some of them. Can they think of any more?

  • People coming into the house.
  • Being shut in her crate when there is action outside it – she licks the crate and drools.
  • Hydrotherapy (she would probably prefer to swim free)
  • Being left in the van with the other dog while the man is at work. (Would left crated at home be less stressful?)
  • Riding in the car
  • Traffic
  • Walks. Would more comfortable walking equipment help?
  • The sight of cattle or horses
  • Something coming through the door (put up an outside letterbox?).
  • Very high value items like bones
  • Dog sports

If four weeks of effort doesn’t bring significant results, I believe it’s time to get medical help. Any human in this state wouldn’t be expected to cope without meds.

Increase in compulsive behaviours.

It’s distressing how many dogs I go to nowadays with repetitive, obsessive compulsive behaviours, dogs with owners who do all they can for them. Are dogs being bred for temperament suited to modern life? Is this getting worse or is it just me?

I quote Pat Miller: ‘One would expect that the rise of force-free training methods and the increased awareness of and respect for dogs as sentient creatures would make life easier for them. We should expect to see a corresponding rise in the number of calm, stable, well-adjusted dogs who are happily integrated into lifelong loving homes. But many training and behavior professionals note with alarm the large number of dogs in today’s world who seem to have significant issues with stress and anxiety, with high levels of arousal and low impulse control.

It’s quite possible this is a function of societal change. There was a time not so very long ago when life was pretty casual for our family dogs. They ran loose in the neighborhood day and night; ate, slept, played, and eliminated when they chose; and many had jobs that fulfilled their genetic impulses to herd some sheep or cows, or retrieve game felled by a hunter’s gun.

In contrast, life today is strictly regimented for many of our canine companions…..Owner expectations and demands are high. Dogs are told what to do from the moment they are allowed to get up in the morning until they are put to bed at night…..They have virtually no control over what happens in their world….’

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 Amber because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. 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).

 

Agitated. Anxious When They Talk to People

Trevor, an absolute sweetie, was extremely agitated by my being there. He is a small, very young-looking black Staffie age ten.

He never stopped pacing, chewing and panting all the time I was there. Two-and-a-half hours.

This is how he behaves when anyone comes to the house. When alone with the couple he is relaxed and calm. No pacing or panting, that’s for sure. Apart from when the grandchildren are there, who Trevor adores, it’s a quiet life.

Was it scenting?

Interestingly, as soon as I arrived he wound himself vigorously around my legs like a cat for a while which I suspect was about putting his scent on me. Possibly he feels more secure when people coming to his house smell like ‘family’? My own dogs certainly showed more interest than usual in the scent on my trousers when I got home.

Agitated

Never stopped moving for a photo

Although very friendly, he became increasingly agitated over the time I was there. This is the opposite to what normally happens though many dogs don’t settle, not used to people simply sitting still and talking to each other in an intense kind of way for this length of time.

As soon as I left they tell me he settled, lay down and went to sleep. He was exhausted.

Trevor on walks is the perfect dog, just as he is at home. He is good with all dogs, he comes back when called, he doesn’t pull. The only problem is when they stop to speak to someone. Poor Trevor’s tail goes between his legs and he shakes. He becomes very agitated.

Could it be something to do with his previous life?

For the first six years of his life Trevor lived with a younger couple. They had obviously loved him and trained him well.

Then they split up. Neither could take him.

He has lived with my clients for four years now.

It is pure speculation, I admit, but is it possible that in his past life animated conversation sometimes ended in a row which scared him? (If the man forgets himself and shouts at TV, Trevor is terrified).

Agitated and anxious. Worse recently.

Sticking to facts, he is a relaxed and calm dog when alone with the couple. He loves his off-lead walks but is not happy if they meet someone and the humans start talking. He becomes very agitated when anyone, including family, comes to the house.

Recently it has become worse. This has coincided with the lady retiring. It suggests a change in routine is unsettling the sensitive dog.

No longer going out to work, the lady has friends coming to the house to see her more often. This will mean there is more animated talking going on.

Trevor paces, he pants, he frantically chews something. He stops briefly to be touched (I tried gentle massage but he couldn’t stay still) and then moves again. Round and round. He licks his lips. With nothing to chew, he may chew his feet.

For starters, we want to get Trevor back to how he was until a few weeks ago when the lady retired and his agitation and anxiety accelerated. He always has been agitated with people about, but not this bad.

They will try to make his routine more like what it used to be where possible. They will avoid things that obviously stir him up where they can and give him activities that help to calm him. There are things like Thundershirt, special music, a plug-in and a calming collar that they could try as well.

I am hoping that, as a certain supermarket says, ‘every little helps’ and that things added together produce results.

No talking.

When friends come round, they will experiment with silence, with the person being very calm and trying ‘no talking at all’ from time to time. Is it talking that’s the problem? I didn’t try five minutes’ silence myself because the possible connection with talking only dawned on me as I left. Like so many cases, it’s about detective work.

When they meet someone out on a walk, the lady can stand Trevor further away. With more distance he should feel safer. The lady can drop food for him, he is fortunately very food motivated, so that he can begin to associate his humans stopping to chat with something good. Over time this should replace any possible previous negative associations.

They will involve the vet, both to check Trevor has no developing medical problem and maybe to back up the behaviour work with medication. In cases like this we should not forget complementary therapies.

Our end aim is for Trevor to stop being agitated when they are talking to someone whether this is at home or out on a walk. This fear is blighting the sweet dog’s life.

From an email three weeks later: ‘Just a quick update. Had a friend round last week. Before she came Trevor was out in the garden searching for “sprinkles” for about thirty minutes, I used Pet Remedy spray before she arrived and I put his Thundershirt on him as well. She commented on his behaviour as soon as she arrived, as to how much calmer he was. Before very long Trevor was lying on the sofa next to her, just like he does in the evenings with me.’

 

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 Trevor and the because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Listening to ‘other people’, 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 is concerned. 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)

Cocker is Simply Too Excitable

Cocker Spaniel was pacing, rushing about, panting, drinking, wanting to go out, clamouring for attention, chewingOllie just kept on going! Pacing, rushing about, panting, drinking, wanting to go out, clamouring for attention, chewing…….

Being excitable may be an emotion and part of a dog’s personality – but it can be a learnt behaviour too when it’s constantly reinforced.

Dogs very often mirror their humans. Calm and quiet people very often have calmer dogs, and excitable people dogs that are more reactive themselves. This could of course be because people choose the breeds of dogs that suit their own characters.

Ollie is a two-and-a-half year old Cocker Spaniel, and as the owner of a Cocker myself I know how excitable they can be. In Ollie’s case, his excitement is unwittingly being reinforced. He will always eventually get the attention he wants while excited, demanding or barking. Like many excitable dogs, he can’t be given toys because he then directs his energy to wrecking them, though he was very busy with my unbreakable Stagbar.

When guests come ‘he calms down once they make a fuss of him’.  It might be more accurate to say that ‘he remains excited until they make a fuss of him’!

When I arrived he was very bouncy, tearing about, jumping up on me, going and having a drink, rushing about again and so on.

I said, ‘Let’s ignore what we don’t want – what is it we do want?’  I gave him a tiny bit of biscuit with a quiet ‘Yes’ each time he stopped still even briefly, then when he happened to sit or lie down. His brain was working!

Throughout the evening he was pushing one of the men to respond to him. This gentleman would I’m sure agree that he’s something of a pushover. The downside is that a dog can be less respectful and tries to control him in other ways too. The man can’t walk downstairs without Ollie trying to grab his feet and ankles.At last Ollie lay down briefly

Ollie is over-stimulated in one way and under-stimulated in another.  There is too much exciting stimulation and too little healthy stimulation by way of brain work and breed-specific stuff like nose work. He needs to be left quietly to work things out for himself like ‘good things come to calm dogs‘. He needs to actually be taught how to be calm.

I must say that it’s due to all the good things the men have done with him that Ollie is so friendly, confident and biddable. Absolutely gorgeous. Ollie’s good points far outweight any bad ones he may have. All his problems come down to over-excitement. Now that his owner realises that quietly restraining himself with Ollie will help him, that should help the dog to learn self-restraint.

When Ollie’s excited antics no longer get the attention he craves he will then start to learn. Meanwhile he won’t give up easily I fear. While he still believes excitement and demanding always works in the end, in the short-term he may simply increase his efforts.

They may be in for a rough few days during which they must occupy him with activities and calm attention but under their own terms – and when he’s not hyped up!

He will learn so long as his humans are consistent.

Six weeks later: ‘ Ollie is definitely a lot calmer and ongoing work will definitely give further rewards. The penny has finally dropped that if the ball is thrown and he brings it back and drops it then it gets thrown again …this is his current most favourite thing but we don’t overdo it!  Thanks for all your support over the last few months…Ollie is definitely a work in progress and I’m sure we’ll be in touch!’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ollie, 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 dog can often 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).

Boisterous Younger Staffie is Too Much for Older Dog

a gentle somewhat nervous dog

Stonker

Stonker on the left is a seven year old Staffie. Up until a couple of years ago before coming to his new home he was used as a stud dog. Bella, now six months, joined them as a puppy. Since then poor Stonker’s life has not been plagued by her.

He is a very gentle and somewhat nervous dog. He doesn’t like lots of people, noise or commotion. He can get very anxious and was panting for a lot of the time I was there.

Bella hasn’t a care in the world. She is a typical rather pushy pup. In the house she will not leave poor Stonker alone, jumping on him and trying to play fight. He is severely stressed with this, so he goes and hides. Much of the time now he’s in hiding.

Lying down at last

Bella

When I arrived Bella was flying all over the place and trying to jump all over me. It was impossible to stop her and I don’t believe in any shouting or pointless ignored commands, so I put a light lead on her collar. It is surprising how some dogs calm down immediately even if the lead isn’t being held. Bella stopped jumping about, she left Stonker alone and very soon she gave a long sigh and lay down – as you see in the picture – something that never happens when they have visitors.  I’m sure she was relieved to know where the boundaries lay.

Consequently Stonker joined us. His panting stopped and he relaxed – that is until the gentleman walked out of the room when he started panting and looking distressed again. You can see anxiety in those eyes. By their own actions and behaviour towards Stonker, his humans can help him.

Staffies have a reputation that in my mind is completely undeserved. I have been to thousands of dogs. In spite of being nervous, shy or scared, few have been aggressive – probably fewer than dogs of many other breeds. Because they are stocky, biddable and strong, and resembling fighting dogs to look at, they have been abused by idiots.

About a month later: Stonker is slowly becoming a new dog he is spending more time on the sofa and out the crate when we home bit by bit now and if he does go to hide he doesn’t stay in it like he normally would he will come in and out of it and he is panting less now. They are slowly starting to interact more the other night I was outside with them and Bella had the ball in her mouth…he got hold of the other end of the ball and they played tug of war with it both tail wagging and then after they had a little game of chase where they just ran round the garden both looked very happy. There was one night when Stonker was on the sofa Bella came up and Stonker did not run away and they both settled next to each other for about 10 mins before Bella went to pester…I see the progress they have both made. We are relaxing more ourselves now and coming home from work is more pleasurable as it not as hectic as it used to be.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Depressed but Comes Alive When Alone

Daisy is anxious and uneasyDaisy is a Labrador X. She was originally found at one year old starving, pregnant and tied to a lamp post. She has lived with her family for six years now. Until a few weeks ago she was happy, outgoing and willing.

For the past two or three months Daisy has become a different dog. She looks miserable and has shut down. She has little interest in food or play. She seldom gets up when people come home. Consequently the family are falling over themselves to humour her and wait upon her. She is the centre of much conversation and anxiety. She will sense this.

I was called out because, from a dog that never jumped up on anything, not even chairs, she has taken to jumping on window sills, kitchen surfaces and even the piano keys. This happens only when they are out or in bed. Valuables have gone flying. When they come into the room the owners are met with a panting, excited and stressed dog; frantically appeasing behaviour.

It is hard to get to the root of this for sure – but I can guess.  First, I made sure she had been thoroughly checked over by the vet.

Probably, weeks or months ago, Daisy had started by creeping onto beds. In retrospect there had been evidence ofdaisy this. Because there was nobody there to say ‘no’, she probably thought it was OK while she was alone. A dog isn’t going to reason things the same way as we do. She probably started to increase her activities and jump on more and more things, unchecked. Then there was an incident in the middle of the night when the TV suddenly came on loudly and the parents rushed downstairs thinking they had burglars, and Daisy was terrified. She possibly could have caused this herself by jumpng on the remote control.

The owners, who know their dog well, are convinced that she knows she’s being ‘naughty’ by jumping on things. If they are right, it’s logical to suppose she took their reaction to her excited, appeasing behaviour before they knew what was happening as endorsement for what she had been doing. Then later, out of the blue (to Daisy, and because there was damage as evidence), one day they were angry. Then another time she was smacked.

The official line is that dogs don’t feel guilt (read ‘In Defence of Dogs’ by John Bradshaw). They are, however, absolute experts in detecting human mood and body language. From the moment the person opens the door she will read how they feel and consequently, especially remembering previous anger, she will be grovelling, jumping up, panting and appeasing them.

The gentleman took timed photo clips one night. No panic! Daisy’s tail is relaxed and she’s not showing any signs of stress. She is systematically and calmly, without a care in the world, jumping up on things, something I’m sure that she believes she is allowed to do when she’s alone. I suspect now not only is it a habit, but because she is under so much pressure during the day by the anxiety around her and to ‘perform’, when she’s alone she feels a terrific sense of release and simply does just what she feels like doing because she can.

From a predictable life where she thought she knew what was what, things are now a puzzling mess. Humans are falling over themselves  to ‘make her happy’, giving her far too much attention and deference, then being unpredictably cross with her. The more they try to bring her out, the more she withdrawn she becomes. The more withdrawn she is, the more approval she seems to receive. She will feel that they want her to be withdrawn.

Whether or not I have the details quite right, backing right off is key. Fortunately Daisy is happy in a crate so she no longer will have free run when left alone. The situation can be managed while they readjust the balance of their relationship with their dog, however long it takes.

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

Springy Springer Spaniel

Springer Sophie can't settleSophie is a 7-year-old Springer Spaniel. She is stressed and hyperactive for much of the time, panting, pacing and crying. This can continue for hours and she only really settles within the confines and restrictions of her crate. It can be very tiring for her family. Sophie is also friendly and gentle. She’s adorable but for some reason troubled. Possibly some of it is genetic as apparently she was even worse when she was younger and they have had help from two or three trainers over the years. Instead of improving she is now getting worse.

Because out on walks she has taken to literally screaming and lunging whenever she sees one of the many cats in the neighbourhood or other dogs, and because her pulling on lead is such a strain, she no longer is taken on walks. All that ‘training’, along with having tried most gadgets they can get such as head halters, various leads and harnesses, has not stopped Sophie pulling. This is because she still wants to pull! I would be willing to guarantee, if they put in the time and effort to do it my way, that she will eventually be walking nicely and willingly beside them on a loose lead, not wanting to pull. I have many many successful cases to prove this. Time and patience are the two operative words – along with knowing the technique. Sophie now is taken out so seldom that the outside world is simply a sensory overload of smells, action, sSpringerSophieounds and potential danger.

Calm walks don’t start at the door, they start with a calm dog at home who has impulse control before encountering all the added stimulation of the outside world – so at home is where it starts. Sophie’s stress levels need to be reduced dramatically and she needs to learn to focus on her owners and what they are asking of her. To achieve this, they will need to earn her respect and attention by how they themselves behave with her.

Sophie is a clever dog but a frustrated dog, with no outlet for her energy or her brains. This will now change (I hope).

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

Wound Up English Bull Terrier

Reggie2Reggie is seven months old, but to look at him you would never think he was little more than a puppy.

He has been hard work from when he arrived at eight weeks old. He is one of the most frantically hyped-up and restless dogs I have seen for a while.

Adolescent Reggie is on the go non-stop. Jumping up, roughly grabbing clothes and barking, digging the carpet, panting, drinking excessively, barking in their faces and constantly looking for mischief. His gentleman owner has some control because he is confident and gets angry, but the lady who is less assertive is being bullied by him. They have a little girl who needs protecting from the charging about and leaping all over people and furniture, so he is in his crate a lot of the time, because there simply is nothing else they feel they can do with him.

Reggie’s personality and genetics must be contributing to this, because the family have neither overly indulged him nor over-disciplined him. He has been carefully checked over by the vet. They have done everything they can. They have read books and taken him to classes, but as he gets older he gets worse.

Having someone with experience to actually come and see what is happening and to offer solutions geared specifically to their dog in his own environment is sometimes the only way. It is often impossible to apply what your read – and besides no two sources say the same thing.

We spent the evening working on his behaviour whilst looking into ways of calming him down in general. Training classes failed big time because he was so hyped up that he spent the time barking, jumping up and grabbing the lady – he even bit her leg, grabbing the lead, and chasing and nipping other dogs.  He is already a very strong and large dog for the breed.

Using a psychological behavioural approach throughout the evening I showed him that jumping and grabbing me was not rewarding in any way. Bit by bit you could see him actually choosing the desired behaviour for himself. At the end of a tiring evening, instead of being shut away in his crate to bark and cry as usual, or jumping at me whenever I moved, he was lying spark out in the middle of the floor – even ignoring us walking around him – see the picture. .

It’s like he was completely exhausted and finally relaxed because patiently and kindly we had been giving him boundaries in a way that he understood and he actually wanted to please.

A big burden had been lifted from him yesterday evening. Bit by bit over the next few weeks he should become a different dog if they are consistent and patient.

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

Stressed Border Collie

Highly stressed Border Collie Coco is panting

Coco

Coco looks a little like Basil Brush, with one ear up and the other down! She’s an unusual colour for a Border Collie. This is the best photo I could manage, because she was pacing  all the evening.

She lives with a much calmer Border Collie, Shep. The fact the two of them are exactly the same age though from different backgrounds and both treated the same by their owner, just shows the importance of stable genetic makeup.

Apparently I saw Coco at her worst as she was already unusually hyped up before I arrived. She had had a particularly stimulating walk involving lots of ball play, and there was Trick or Treat out in the street. There may have been other happenings during the day contributing to the build up of her stress levels. Once things get to this stage there is little one can do. From the moment we mentioned the ‘W’ word in conversation, she was pacing to and from the door, whining, panting and jumping onto people. This carried on for over three hours. Restraining her in any way simply made her worse, or made her redirect onto poor Shep.

The  perpetual stress results in her being reactive to dogs and scared of people, chasing traffic, barking in the car at anything moving and being especially frantic around small children who visit. Consequenlty her owner is anxious, and clever Coco will know this.

Where it’s tempting to spray with a water pistol to simply stop her barking at children, or to physically scold and hold her back from moving vehicles, this is not dealing with the problem. Techniques like this will only associate children and traffic with more unpleasant stuff.

The problem has to be dealt with at source by removing all stress possible, and looking at the sort of rules and boundaries that would make a dog feel secure. Often things that dogs seem to love like prolonged ball play, walks preceeded by frantic excitement and lots of running about in general, can prove just too much. Coco loves brain work and I feel this is healthier stimulation for her at the moment. At home, although well trained so far as commands are concerend, she has few restrictions, and may feel safer with some physical boundaries and rules.

I would prefer a stable dog with little formal training to an unstable dog that that is highly trained. ‘Training’ is the icing on the cake. We need to get the cake right first. Collies like Coco who came from a farm, being extremely intelligent working dogs who are no longer doing what they are bred for, can be a challenge. People so often think that hours of running around and stimulation can replace hours of waiting patiently beside a shepherd, running off when commanded to do their job, and then returning when instructed. Where they go and what they do is controlled by their master and the relationship between the two is clearly defined. What Coco does and where she goes is largely controlled by herself, and the relationship between her and her owner is not sufficiently defined to give Coco confidence in her.

So, giving Coco fair, consistent physical boundaries and working on reducing excitement and lowering her stress levels will do wonders for her I am sure.

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

Corgi is always on dutyBenny is a four-year-old Corgi. He lives in what one might imagine to be a dog paradise. He is free to go wherever he likes in a very large country house. He has a caring family and the company of two other dogs.

Watching the continual lip-licking, the yawning and the panting, it’s obvious that Benny is a stressed dog rather than one revelling in a wonderful life. He is on guard duty alert much of the time, and ready to rush to protect his owners at the drop of a hat, particularly his female humans. If a man suddenly walks in the front door Benny may appear from nowhere and go for his legs, even if he has met him before. He hates the postman. If someone walks towards his owner, or makes arm movements that Benny could interpret as a threat, again he will spring into action. It’s always legs he goes for, probably due to his own lack if height, and fortunately he’s not yet done serious injury.

I believe Benny will become a much more relaxed dog if he is given some boundaries – physical in particular. At present there are no limits to where he can go. If the lady of the house disappears behind a door, he barks and cries. If someone comes to the front door, he is in effect the first line of defense – there, on guard. It’s best if the owners avoid having Benny in front of them for now when someone approaches. After all, a dog protecting a pack member will always get in between her and the threat.

How can a smallish dog possibly look after so many people and protect such a large environment? Benny is doing his level best. No wonder he is stressed.

It is the leader/head of the family’s job to be the protector and the decision maker. If from the start he is accustomed to boundaries and sometimes being shut behind doors, a dog is far happier in a ‘den’ in a corner than rattling around loose in a large house, especially if he can rest secure in the knowledge that protection duty is not his responsibility. Bennie doesn’t actually spend much time outside in the large grounds because he dare not let his lady owner out of his sight. He follows her everywhere and cries if a door is shut on him. With patient work, he should eventually be able to let her come and go as she likes – and trust her to look after herself.

Putting in place a few rules and boundaries, slowly getting him used to being more independent in so far as demonstrating through leadership that the humans are there to look after him and not vice versa,  should make him a much more chilled dog.

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