Tommy has landed himself a comfy sofaTommy is delightful – a small Staffie X aged eight. He has had a hard life but landed on his feet a few days ago with two older gentlemen.

I am helping them to start off right with Tommy – a fresh beginning for him.

They may have a challenge not to spoil him too much in the early days. It’s much better to give a dog some rules and boundaries so that he knows what’s what from the outset. It will help him to feel secure. He also needs to be allowed some independence to avoid him developing separations issues.

There are however big problems with other dogs on walks when Tommy is on lead, and I suspect they were trying to do too much too soon. He will feel trapped on lead, in a strange environment with people he doesn’t know well. This needs to be taken back to basics, loose lead and calmer walking established, and plenty of standing and watching the world go by with the men knowing exactly how to react when a dog appears.

Because he is using aggression to protect himself, they suggested using a muzzle. I see it like this: Imagine a large gorilla is walking you on a chain through a safari park where you know there may be lions lurking. You are trapped, uncomfortable and helpless, all your attempts to pull and escape painfully thwarted. When a lion appears in the distance, rather than putting in some distance the gorilla yanks you to his side and keeps walking towards the lion – jerking the chain if you protest. This is an exaggerated version of how Tommy probably feels when out and on lead. Muzzling him? It’s like the gorilla has made you even more helpless by tying your hands behind your back.

Tommy needs to be able to trust his walker, and his walker needs to know how to react when other dogs are about.

Five weeks later: “I had my first ‘close encounter’ with another dog last night.  But for the first time I didn’t panic or tense up.  Jake was on lead and two dogs were quite a distance away.  I kept walking towards them and as soon as he clocked them I stopped and turned to walk the other way, he just followed!! In the past he would of stood his ground and not moved.  Then to top it all there was another one coming the other way, so did exactly the same.  I did put him in the car (didn’t feel quite ready to deal with 3 dogs off lead running around) and I stood in front the window facing the dogs.  They came bounding up to me, Jake didn’t move – normally he would have barked!!  Made of fuss of a couple of them, Jake just sat there.  I can’t believe how in control I felt”.
A couple of months after my visit: ‘Yesterday was two months to the day. The difference is amazing’.