Little Floyd Has Lost his ‘Joie de Vivre’.

Floyd is a worried dogFloyd used to have such enthusiasm for life, but this has slowly changed over the past few months.

He also started to toilet in the house and it’s gradually becoming more frequent, particular when his owners have come home from another trip. Something seems to have traumatised him and a bit of detective work may have unearthed what that is.

The couple have had the eight-year-old Jack Russell cross (there must be Daschund or Beagle in there somewhere!) since he was a puppy, and he has always gone everywhere with them. They have geared holidays around places where he can be taken. This year they have been away four times. They leave him at home with their son and daughter (aged 22 and 18) so you would think that would be no problem. A couple of months ago immediately before they left him behind, the gentleman took him for his usual walk. He rounded a corner ahead of the man (something I advise shouldn’t happen) and was attacked by another dog. Then, as soon as they got home, the couple left him. The suitcases were in the hallway and they were ready to go.

Each time they have returned from being away they have found him increasingly nervous and skittish, and the toileting has increased. When they come home from work he no longer greets them but stays in his bed. Even a pending walk is no longer anything special. He regularly displays signs that he is trying to keep calm – he lifts his paw a lot, he licks his lips and he yawns.

The dear little dog has always been the easiest dog you could wish for with a wonderful temperament, so they have got away with more than they might otherwise in terms of running around after his every wish and over-exciting him. The gentleman in particular jumps to his every wish. Floyd only has to bark and the man is on his hands and knees! The son winds him up with rough play until he can hardly cope. The lady is firmer. Floyd lacks the security that comes from consistent rules and boundaries.

We owe it to our dogs to provide them with ‘leadership’ in terms of guidance and decision-making.

All his family want is for him to be back to his old self, and they are willing to do whatever it takes. They have had him thoroughly checked over by the vet, because in cases where a dog’s behaviour changes a physical reason must be ruled out.

Border Terrier a Bundle of Worry

Border Mitzy is a highly stressed little dogLittle Mitzy is a seven-year-old Border Terrier. Mitzy is a bundle of worry.

I watched her shaking, regularly lifting her paw and licking her lips like she was taking a bite of air.

I was called because they no longer take her for walks due to her ‘aggression’ towards other dogs. This I’m sure is due to terror, and she nearly strangles herself lunging at them.

Mitzy is in a state before she even leaves the house. She shakes when her harness is put on. She pulls down the road, already highly stressed, and that’s before she even sees a dog. Even though she has never actually harmed a dog on a walk, they were so worried that they had been muzzling her which would have increased her feeling of helplessness.

We have listed all the things that stress poor Mitzy and these need working on. Reducing her anxiety at home must be a start, because if she is permanently aroused she’s in no a fit state to face the scary outside world.

The lady and her two daughters are going to go back to basics with the walking and break it down into tiny steps. Any walking at all – even five minutes two or three times a day – is a lot better than she’s getting now.

First she needs a comfortable harness. Nothing more should happen until she is happy having it put on and wearing it – no shaking. – so she may need it left on for a few days. Then they need to walk her in the garden where she feels relatively safe, teaching her how pleasant it is when the lead is loose, treats and encouragement are used and they themselves are relaxed. This could take weeks! Next step is to venture through the gate. Only when she can do that calmly should they try walking outside. She won’t be ready for ‘other dogs’ yet! I myself sometimes use a ‘stooge’ dog – a realistic stuffed boxer I call Daisy that I can place at a distance. This can be done with real distant dogs, but Daisy is predictable and stands still!  The people can then remain relaxed whilst rehearsing their procedure for meeting dogs. They need to manage the environment and choose quiet times. Having an unscheduled close encounter would set things back at this stage.

The lady and her two teenage daughters are very committed to helping Mitzy and I”m sure they will give it as long as it takes which could be many months. Mitzy will start to enjoy walks. There is no reason why, after she can negotiate going out as far as the car calmly and happily, they should not drive her to somewhere open and dog-free, put her on a long line, no muzzle, and give her some freedom.

Worried Little Lizzie

patterdale Staff mixLizzie is a Patterdale Staffie X.  Her previous owners split up and Lizzie has now lived in her new home for four weeks. She used to live with another dog.

Lizzie is a quiet little dog. She also seems a rather worried little dog. She is only three years old and should perhaps be a bit more carefree. She sometimes seems to shake with fear for no apparent reason. When her very loving gentle owners come home she sometimes cowers slightly, she has peed, or she may lie on the floor and wriggle appeasingly towards them – especially the man.

In the time I was there Lizzie looked asleep but you could tell by her ears she wasn’t really relaxed. She likes to jump on the people and to sit on them, but doesn’t seem to enjoy being stroked so much. While being stroked she was yawning and licking her lips – classic signs of unease. By reading her body language, her people can learn when to just let her be near them without constantly petting her.  A little gentle tickle from time to time seemed to work best.

We assume that because our dogs like to be beside or on us that they want to be petted, but this isn’t necessarily so. We also assume they jump onto us and even walk all over us because they love us, where they might be simply be showing us our place – ‘beneath them’. Just sometimes this is the case, not always. A dog does not necessarily jump onto us because it wants affection.

Constant petting may even be telling our dog that we are needy which is a big sign of weakness and no good to the dog at all. Playing a little hard to get can be a good thing! It’s very hard for us humans to resist a lot of touching of our dogs – they do feel so nice!

Lizzie is increasingly showing wariness of other dogs. This may just be because, having had time to settle in her new home, her true traits are now coming to the fore; it may also be because with ‘weak’ owners she feels both unprotected and that she has to protect them. She is very submissive as soon as she sees a bigger dog but may grab smaller dogs by the neck and try to dominate them. The incidents are increasing.

Lizzie’s behaviour with other dogs is the only behaviour that actually impacts upon them, but this case is a good example of how nothing can be taken in isolation and is part of a bigger picture. Lizzie needs to be more confident at home, more confident in her owners’ leadership and generally more chilled. In a less stressed and more confident state of mind, along with owners who know how to react appropriately as leaders when other dogs are about, she will then be better equipped to face the big outside world and other dogs with confidence.

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