I have just had a challenging evening with two border collies, Will and Ruby. Their owners have not had a guest to their house for two years now because of their dog’s behaviour. They both lunge and bark at people in a scary way and have bitten, and they can’t even be left in another room because Will panics, makes a lot of noise and is destructive in his panic to get out. Both dogs have crates. Ruby is happy to be in her crate, but Will makes a lot of noise in his desperation to get out. He suffers from separation anxiety and has actually broken out on a couple of occasions, injuring himself trying to escape when left alone.
The gentleman first brought Will into the room on lead (I was furthest from the door), and by using the advance/retreat technique Will eventually calmed down sufficiently to stop barking at me and lie down. The owner then brought Ruby in and we went through the process again. Eventually both settled (held firmly on leads) – until I moved! It is hard to talk without moving and I know I can be quite animated. I kept sending the dogs all the calming signals I know, and instructed the owners in keeping calm and quiet – though it is very difficult not to jump and scare a skittish dog when she is quietly sniffing you and then suddenly gives a loud bark right in your ear! One dog set the other off again.
This is a challenging situation because the lady owner is unwell and unable to do much with the dogs. In fact, it has got to the stage where she doesn’t really want them, though the man who is stronger feels differently. Will, who was rescued at five months, originally accompanied the man to his work as a groundsman in a country park, but soon had to be left at home because of his guarding and aggressive behaviour towards people. Neither dog can be walked on lead by anybody except the man who is strong enough to handle the excessive pulling and aggressive reactions to dogs and people, and the chasing behaviour with wheels and joggers. People have been nipped and bitten.
We have created a plan that, with the help of her family, will encourage the lady not to give up on her dogs; something that gives the dogs a bit more stimulation and leadership but within her capabilities, including strategies to deal with Will’s separation problems and both dogs’ fearful behaviouron walks and towards any people who do not live in their house. It is going to take a considerable length of time, and I hope they will stay the course.