LlasaJust look at this for a face! Llasa Apso Charlie is eighteen months old and lives with a young couple who describe themselves as ‘virgin’ dog owners. They have read books and taken advice in their efforts to do their very best for Charlie and in respect of teaching many commands and tricks they have done brilliantly. He’s a clever little dog – and a bit of a monkey!

He has always been a somewhat nervous dog, but something really bad happened to him about six weeks ago, and since then he’s not been his old self at all. He went to the groomer just as he had many times before, but this time something was different. Perhaps something that happened before they got there that the people are not aware of had stressed him, perhaps he had reacted to another dog there or maybe there were just too many people and dogs in the place. Anyway, as far as I understand it, the moment the groomer tried to touch him he flipped. He went mental.

His owners can’t understand why they hadn’t immediately stopped and phoned them but instead carried on. It took two or three people to hold him down and ‘double-muzzle’ him while they clipped him.

When the couple fetched him up he was like a different dog. He was terrified. At bed time he wouldn’t go in the kitchen nor near the crate which up till then he always slept in. He would run, cower and shake. He would no longer tolerate his harness being put on. He had suddenly turned and bitten the gentleman when he accidently knocked into him as he slept. Already a restless dog, he was now extra hyper – charging around the furniture which he had never done before.

I can only think, that to Charlie, what happened at the groomer’s had seemed like he’d been pinned down and physically ‘dominated’ and it so clearly demonstrates the possible fallout from sorts of training methods that use force. It also shows how long the effect of extreme stress can last for.

He needs to learn again to trust, and to appreciate being touched and handled – and not only when he himself chooses, which can only be done if it’s not pushed onto him. His lovely owners are very distressed and have understandably over-compensated. His recent phobia of having a harness on or anything else on his body needs to be addressed very slowly and sensitively.

With the techniques I have taught them, Charlie should gradually get his confidence back and put this unfortunate experience behind him.

Almost two months have gone by: “Things are going much better with Charlie, he even has moments of being a really well behaved lovely little dog!!  I’ve noticed he is much happier to let me pet him (and pulls away much much less) and also comes to me and sits by me more often which is really nice…..He comes to us every time in the house now when we call him, and this is very useful if we see him heading for a potentially naughty situation. He generally seems much calmer and I often see him sitting nicely, either on his new bed in the living room, or when he is with me in one of the bedrooms. The hint about dropping a treat down for him when he is sitting nicely works really well and he is jumping up and stealing things much less now. On the occasion he manages to  get something we ignore him completely and that works very well – I usually find it left somewhere where he has lost interest and abandoned it, so it’s much less stressful. I am up to step 5 of your walking plan, taking things very slowly……it just makes a change to get to go for a walk and also to practice recall, which again is working really well….walks are a lot more fun and enjoyable now, it’s nice.
We really appreciate your advice and support, and all the good tips which have worked so well. Life does feel more manageable with Charlie and he seems much calmer and less growling and reactive. Meeting and greeting is much calmer too, and there is less barking.  He is also much better around the cats. ..There was a lot of information in your booklets and notes, and we are working through it – all the tips you have told us have worked really well.  As I go through your notes I pick up on new things and try to work it into our everyday life, so it becomes a habit”.
Nearly 3 years later! “Just thought I’d drop you a quick line about Charlie as its been a few years. He’s a lovely dog now – very loyal and well behaved and we can’t thank you enough for getting us started on the right path to training and working with him day to day. He comes when he is called and walks lovely on and off the lead now. He also has a good relationship with our cat Alfie and sits with him watching the world go by!”