I felt quite inspired being with this couple and their two rescue dogs – one elderly German Shepherd who without their offer of a home would have been put to sleep and a younger Belgian Shepherd who was found in a canal.
Since the four-year-old Jack arrived from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago, Chloe’s barking has escalated. It is hard for an old dog like Chloe to accept an energetic younger dog in her home.
The couple badly want both dogs to be happy together. They already have a very ‘positive’ outlook on dog communication, but some things need an outsider’s perspective.
This is quite a challenge. Many of the options for the sort of behaviour exhibited by GSD Chloe are impossible due to her being in quite a lot of pain from arthritis despite being on the maximum dosage of Metacam. Even getting up is a labour, so they are working on getting eye contact and reinforcing quiet.
The constant discomfort together with lack of mobility I’m sure will be contributing to Chloe’s intolerance of active new boy Jack.
To help her properly, they need to change the emotions that are driving her barking behaviour.
Seeing Jack petted and fussed may be upsetting Chloe. She barked at him when he was excited around me. She barked at him when he was chewing a toy. She barked whenever he came back into the room from the garden. She sometimes barks when he just walks about. She barks constantly on walks with him.
As we could see from his body language, Jack at times feels a little uneasy when entering the room or walking past her. He is treading carefully – for now.
Their way to make him feel at home has been a lot of touching and petting, he’s certainly irresistible – but they are fair. Chloe gets her share also. However, something tells me that it would be best for now if the fussing of Jack was kept to a minimum, best for him and best for Chloe.
Despite the Metacam, Chloe was stressed and restless the whole evening. It ended with a spat between the two dogs over a toy she had been chewing and which Jack then took and started to destroy. (They dealt with it beautifully – immediately and calmly separating the dogs).
Chloe’s barking on walks when she sees other dogs has escalated these past two weeks. This is a shame because she used to be so well-socialised and friendly as for now, fortunately, is Jack.
The couple is afraid that he will learn the wrong things from her.
For now the two will be walked separately in order to work on Jack’s loose lead walking and give him the exercise he needs, and to properly work on Chloe’s barking and reactivity. You can teach an old dog new tricks – with patience and kindness.
Then, all being well, they will be able to walk both dogs together again.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chloe and Jack, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. 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).