Gun dog. Easing off the training, giving him choices.

Gun dog Black Lab Bentley is extremely well-behaved and polite, an absolute delight.

The young dog seems, however, careful. He follows anyone who gets up to walk about, looking worried. He can be jumpy.

Gun dog training

gun dogHis young lady owner is very conscientious indeed. She is keen to make a good gun dog out of him and is very disciplined with the training. Each family member helps her by walking him and they are well-trained too – very keen to help. All walks include training sessions.

The girl voiced concern that if she follows my behaviour route, Bentley’s training may go downhill.  I suspect that easing right back on the gun dog training and giving Bentley more choice will instead enhance their training sessions.

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Enthusiasm for Life is Missing

From the moment I walked in the door I was struck by how still and unresponsive Bulldog Buster was.

He stood still and looked at me, in neither a friendly way nor an unfriendly way. Inscrutable.

The lady in particular has been doing all she can to liven him up and inject some enthusiasm for play but if anything, over the year that they have had him, the harder they try the more indifferent he gets.

Buster has no enthusiasm for walks either.

That is unless the walk starts by car. He loves the car.

There are just a few things that bring out the life hidden within five-year-old Buster in addition to the car. Where he is indifferent towards people calling to his house, he is positively pleased to see people he meets when out and greets them with enthusiasm.

When the lady or the gentleman come home, he greets them with some enthusiasm too. It’s all relative of course – but walking to the door to say hello is enthusiasm for Buster!

What also struck me as soon as I saw him was his size. I know that Bulldogs are broad, but Buster is carrying much too much weight and together with his Bulldog brachycephalic nose leading to difficulty in breathing, this could well be sapping his energy and enthusiasm for doing anything (he has been thoroughly vet checked)

The more lifeless Buster becomes, the harder his humans work at pleasing him.

Refusing to eat has even resulted in his raw food diet being hand-fed to him by the lady. When food is involved he may show some enthusiasm and this has resulted in lots of fattening extras.

Where is that enthusiasm and joy a that dog with Buster’s great life should exude?

He walks away when they get the harness out. When out of the front door he stands and sniffs and looks about and won’t move for ten minutes or so which will be resulting in a lot of cajoling. Fortunately they don’t force him but would love him to show some enthusiasm for walks.

He refuses to come down in the morning. He just wants to stay upstairs asleep

In the evening he will get one of his toys and suckle it, going into a sort of trance. It’s almost like he’s trying to escape the real world. I wonder why? His owners adore him and lavish him with everything they can think of but this doesn’t seem to be enough.

The seeds for his  behaviour must surely have been sown during in his life before he came to live with them a year ago.

Bulldog has little enthusiasm for lifeInstead of letting Buster spend nearly all the time sleeping, they now have a list of very short activities with which they can punctuate the day and evening.

They will sort out his eating habits. He can now work for some of his (carefully measured) food and should be more hungry. He can do fun things he likes like hunting games. He can forage for food sprinkled in the grass.

The harness can be put on and left on so it’s not associated with walks. In addition to his two walks – reluctant unless by car, Buster can regularly be taken just to stand outside the front door where he lingers for so long before being willing to walk. If he’s brought back in again before he’s decided he is ready to walk, it just might create a desire for walking!

He may be actually uneasy about the world outside the front door, it’s hard to tell, so this strategy should help. Before walking out, they can lace the environment around the doorstep with food which he can discover once outside.

The Rucksack Walk would be just perfect for Buster and for the lady – so desperate is she to find ways of engaging with him.

I instinctively feel that too much pressure is being put on Buster through the lady’s loving concern for him and in a perverse sort of way all the attention is sending him in the opposite direction. He is being lavished with things but nothing is actually asked of him in return.

I see a comparison between a person in rewarding work doing something useful and a person who has been out of work so long that his life has become meaningless. He may end up sleeping a lot of the time.

I hope, together with getting him into better physical shape, these are the missing links in unearthing in Buster the hidden enthusiasm for life most dogs have, resulting in him being more responsive to his loving humans.

 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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Buster. 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. 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)