First of all, my arrival stirred him up. He did a lot of jumping up. Then he started looking for shadows and reflections and was obessively chasing them barking and growling at them. He was very restless all evening. He even had to be held still so I could take a photo of him.
Charlie had always been a rather highly strung little dog but a few weeks ago his behaviour took a turn for the worse. He started to behave in a very agitated manner. He also felt threatened when two people had leaned over him to touch him so he bit them. This was entirely out of character.
It seems that the main change in his life was that instead of being shut safely in his crate during the day when they were out, and during the night – something he had been used since he was a puppy, they decided he would be happy with more space, so gave him the run of much of the downstairs. During the day he was now very likely to be watching out of the window, barking at birds and cats and getting himself into a state. Very likely he no longer felt safe.
Looking back couple of months earlier, he had been encouraged to chase a laser beam in play and this could well have been the start of his obsessive behaviour. It is surprising just how quickly a dog can start something like this. As his general stress levels had been rising it manifested itself in shadow chasing.
Most dogs need 17 to 18 hours sleep a day. Imagine that the little dog now is on patrol for most of the day and then, when the family comes home, he is wild with excitement and only settles in the late evening. We know how we ourselves feel when we are sleep deprived, don’t we. He is much more likely to be touchy and scared when someone looms over him and puts their hand out on top of him, something which to a dog can seem like threatening bad manners. We also forget that a little dog only sees somebody up to about knee level and so they will be relying upon their noses, and the first person he bit smelt of cats, one of Charlie’s pet hates.
So they will now reintroduce the crate. I’m sure when they reduce his stress levels the shadow chasing will stop, meanwhile they will use distraction and maybe brief time out for the peace of his crate where he loves to be.
Human visitors will need to be taught how to touch him and not to loom over him. I am sure this is just a temporary thing. When a dog bites and is met with anger, which to the dog must seem like unreasonable aggression on our part, he is much more likely to bite again. I know that to us it seems like we are condoning the behaviour if we don’t punish the dog, but it is far better to keep calm and simply remove him from the situation. Then try to get to the bottom of what is really happening.
The underlying problem needs to be sorted if the matter is not to escalate. In any sudden change in behaviour, a vet needs to be consulted to make sure there isn’t physical problem.