Scared of the Car. Scared of Traffic. Systematic Desensitisation

Barney is very scared of the car. He won’t get in.

scared of the carHe is very frightened of traffic also.

This is becoming a problem. Not only does it limit where they can walk him but they will need to take him to the vet soon.

Four months ago the two-year-old Staffie came to live with the couple. All they know about his past is that he was in rescue kennels for the previous eighteen months of his young life. Continue reading…

Stressed Jack Russell/Corgi X

Fred is a seven-year-old Jack Russel Corgi mix. For his first three years, on one hand he was so pampered he even had breakfast in bed, on the other hand he was left shut up alone for hours on end. When my clients took him four years ago he was very overweight and hyper. I would argue that extreme indulgance along with isolation for hours on end is on a par with physical abuse.

Very naturally my clients wanted to compensate for his being alone so much the lady took him everywhere with her, despite his panicking in the car. He is seldom alone. He follows her everywhere and sleeps in their bedroom at night.

This is a summary of a typical day for Fred:

At midnight he usually decides he would like to go outside – having just been out two hours beforehand. In the morning there is manic jumping up and barking while the lady tries to do his breakfast. Then there is the drive to take the children to school, starting with wild excitement at the door where he may have a little go at their other dog, a Jack Russell. He doesn’t want to get in the car, and once in he is shaking and barking – really frightened and stressed. This continues for the entire half hour journey. The children are dropped off and then he pulls frantically to the fields. They are off lead now for an hour or more. Next they spend an hour at the lady’s mother’s house. More excitement, big welcomes and stress. Then he’s forced back in the car with more shaking and barking. Back home, guess what, he doesn’t relax, exhausted! He is so hyped up he has to unwind and charge about.

Feeding is a battle due to over excitement, he parades, buries and guards chews and bones and jumps all over visitors. He is scared of everything from the vacuum cleaner to pushbikes and fireworks. Needless to say, he’s a barker.

They would like Fred to ‘listen’ and ‘do as he is told’.  In his current state commands go right over his head – and how necessary are they anyway? The priority is to help de-stress him so he calms down.

There is a lot of work to be done starting with rescuing him from the morning school run ordeal and instead leaving him at home with the other dog for company. His food will be changed in case that may be contributing to his hyper behaviour. He has bad teeth and they need sorting – toothache would make him edgy for sure. Meal times need to be calm however long it takes waiting. And the whole walking thing needs to go back to scratch – working on calm before anything else can be done.

It’s going to be hard work, but I am sure the family is up to it. Fred’s stress makes the lady stressed also. Soon Fred should start to enjoy life a bit more and relax. If he is calmer he will be more inclined to ‘listen’.

1st June: It is less than three weeks later, and just sometimes, especially where the owner is 100% on board, things fall into place very quickly. Here is the lady’s email. She had taken Fred back to the vet for a check up on dental work that may have been causing him pain: “Today Fred was totally different – no pulling (he had his harness on), no over excited lunges towards other dogs (he just wagged his tail and had a quick ‘hello’ sniff) and no bad reactions to bikes (we passed two cyclists!).  It was unbelievable – he was a real pleasure to walk with which I can honestly say has never been the case in the past! We even sat on a bench in the high street (we were a bit early for our appt), watched a tractor roll past (not a murmur of protest) and lots of busy people rushing up to the station.  Normally he would be yelping and pulling to get away, wouldn’t sit down and would generally be very stressed. Things are really going well and I haven’t let anyone slip back into bad habits! Fred is how he should be – calm and gentle, and I can’t thank you enough for all your help. We have achieved so much in such a short space of time.  Life is so much calmer and more positive.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.