From her owners’ perspective, adorable Bichon-Maltese mix Charlie is given everything a dog could possibly want for a happy life. They always thought the more excited she is the more joyful she feels. From Charlie’s perspective she is living a life punctuated by extreme stress and chronic anxiety.
Deservedly, Charlie is adored by the family – a lady, her daughter and her two granddaughters. By the end of my visit they began to see things in a different light. See the yawn? She is showing unease at being looked at while I took the photo.
When they greet Charlie she is ‘beyond excited’ and they fire her up with vigorous attention – so much so that she may pee. They believe just because she’s so excited that it’s good for her. The lady always thought that Charlie loved to go out in the car. Charlie’s excited and jumps in willingly, but then she is barking at people, dogs and traffic. She is left in the car when the lady shops because ‘she loves it’ even though she’s quite happy left at home. The entire time she is barking at anything she sees that moves.
Walks are horrendous. She pulls and barks at people, dogs and cars. It’s constant. They take her into the town where she is a ‘nightmare’, going for people’s legs; Mostly she is taken by car (barking all the way) to the park where she and her nervous owner are all the time looking about in near panic should a person or dog appear and if she’s off lead she will run back to the car or even try to find her way home.
Despite all this and like many other people – the lady feels that as a good and loving dog owner she must make Charlie go through this nightmare every day, and feels guilty if walks are missed. I would argue that Charlie’s mental and psychological health is more important than walks. Working on her confidence when out of the house will take a lot of time and patience.
I have recently watched a new DVD by famous trainer/behaviourist Suzanne Clothier called ‘Arousal, Anxiety and Fear’. She says she always mentally asks the dog, ‘How is this for you?’ She says ‘Make your dog feel safe’.
We put our dogs in situations where we think they are safe – but does the dog feel safe?
Loving their dogs as they do, why do so few people not consider, ‘How is this for you’ and help them out?