Bella’s sweet looks attract attention when they are out, but she doesn’t like being approached and especially touched.
She looks like a long-eared Labrador puppy, but she is actually a two-year-old Labrador Springer cross, much smaller than a Labrador.
The couple, first-time dog owners, admit to not having socialised her when they got her as a puppy, not realising how crucial puppy socialisation is. The lady took her for long country walks with a friend and her dog but she met few people. They didn’t have many callers to the house at that time either.
Now they have a baby and they get more visitors, and Bella is finding them scary. Her barking sounds quite fierce. In his ignorance, a visiting family member tries to grab her while she’s barking and she has snapped at him. She has no choice with all her other warnings ignored. She has nipped a couple of other people who have approached her and tried to touch her at home as well as out.
Her owners now see that it’s their responsibility to protect her from unwanted advances just as they would their baby. Over time Bella should then become less wary. In addition, a lot of good associations need to be attached to people she meets, both coming to the house and when out.
Bella is very reactive to many things – the vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, hairdryer, garden hose and more. The young man plays wrestling games and hypes her up when he comes home till she’s flying all over him like a wild thing. Inadvertently, through his shouting at a TV football match, she is now really frightened when he raises his voice.
Helping her to be calmer is key. It is all TOO MUCH. So, sorry, no more wild games. Put her in another room if the match is gripping and put her somewhere else before using any machinery that scares her. They understand and are happy with this, wanting the very best for her.
They will get a little yellow jacket for her saying ‘I need space’ or ‘please don’t touch me’ to help when they are out (maybe even when they have callers!). This way they won’t have to keep making excuses or apologising.
Believing it will be the best they can do for dear little Bella, in a few days’ time they are picking up a new puppy! A Newfoundland called Brewster. He will be eight weeks old and I guess not much smaller than Bella herself.
They are hoping that a companion will give her more confidence. Maybe. Time will tell. Crucial will be allowing Bella to make her own advances (or not) and doing much more to avoid her building up stress in general. Appropriate early puppy socialisation is so important. Watch this space.
I shall be returning in a few days’ time, the day after they bring Brewster home, in order to make sure everything is set in place from the start and that Bella is happy.
Very importantly, we will also draw up a plan for active socialisation – for both dogs.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bella and Brewster, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).