Teddy is the cutest little dog – a Poodle Maltese mix, three years of age. Teddy lives with his young lady owner and her parents and they are all totally in love with him. Understandably! Here he is begging for attention and he knows it’s impossible to resist! He loves having his photo taken.
Teddy is playful and loving, but has always been a somewhat sensitive dog. However, since about six months ago he has developed more extreme fearfulness. He has become much more barky at people coming to the door or dogs walking past the house, and will bark at anyone he doesn’t know well whilst at the same time wanting to be friendly!
On walks it is worst. He can scream with fear if an energetic dog is too close. Because Teddy seems so small and fragile, the young lady’s mother in particular is very worried that Teddy might be hurt by another dog. He seems not to give off the right signals. He invites play and a chase, and then gets very scared when the dog takes him up, and then he may run away screaming. He has never been hurt by another dog, but even so the lady is now a nervous wreck on walks, worrying about whether Freddie might get hurt. She is undoubtedly passing her fear of the bigger dogs to Freddie. The lady’s father is also fearful, and picks him up, which makes things worse because the other dog then has to jump up to get to him.
The trouble with this sort of panic is that knowing it’s unreasonable doesn’t help. It eats into you.
What Teddie needs most is to be with people who are completely confident because then he will feel protected. At the moment I know that he feels exposed. The daughter is actually a lot more confident on walks, but in other ways she has given Teddy the responsibility of looking after her. She has been at home all day for the past six months. Teddy is mostly with her round the clock, sleeping in her room and following her like a limpet. He sits and watches the front door when she goes out. If another dog comes near her, he warns it off.
We need to work on calm walks for Teddy – things are hectic before they even leave the house. This should be taken gradually, a few steps at a time, with strategies so the people can feel calm and in control should they meet another dog. The mother needs to take it a few steps at a time just as much as Teddy – more so probably! She needs to work on confident body language and when she’s walking him stay near home where she can always turn back straight away if she starts to panic. Teddy can, without doubt, sense or smell her fear. The daughter needs to show some leadership/parenting and allow Teddy independence, so that he is not so needy and vulnerable – sort of wean him off her a bit.
It can be hard to ‘release’ a dog and allow it to be independent when you love him so much – especially a companion lap dog. But – he is still a dog!