Bonnie is a working dog without a job.
She is a thirteen-month-old beautiful fox red Labrador.
I always ask my clients what their aim in having me would be if I had a magic wand. Which of course I don’t!
Bonnie’s owners said simply, ‘Happy walks with a happy dog’.
One would think that Bonnie had everything in life a dog could ask for. However, the most important thing, apart from food and keeping safe, is missing.
Over the months, the more challenging her behaviour has become due to frustration and over-arousal, the less enrichment and exercise she has received. It’s a vicious circle.
The lady can no longer walk her for fear of being pulled over. Bonnie is crazy with excitement as she charges out of the door.
Bonnie is a gun dog, bred to accompany someone with a gun (yes, I know) and to retrieve the game.
They don’t need to give their working dog the actual work she has been bred for. There is still a lot someone can do to satisfy her genetic needs. There are other activities that fulfil her instincts and can compensate.
Nowadays there are some great gun dog trainers like Acer that teach the skills in a modern positive, force-free way without killing anything.
Bonnie has a lovely nature but there is no escape from her breeding as a working dog. The job she should be doing would not only exercise her body but her brain as well.
She would regularly experience a variety of different environments and encounter various challenges.
They can still give her these things.
Walking Bonnie falls upon the lady and currently she finds it impossible. With no walks at all now, working dog Bonnie hasn’t left their home and fairly small garden for a couple of months.
They do the very best they can in the circumstances, but realising this isn’t enough, they called me.
Bonnie gets very little enrichment and this is the source of her restless and demanding behaviours. Looking for employment, she digs holes in the garden and charges around the place. She will chew something like her life depends upon it. She may steal paper and then refuse to give it up.
She behaved in a frantic and highly-aroused manner until I brought out my clicker. I used it solely to calm her. Very soon she focused. She stopped jumping up at me and at the table; she no longer charged about and began offering various other behaviours instead……
….The working dog was working!
We looked at various ways the lady could add enrichment to Bonnie’s life even before she’s able to take her out again, satisfying some of her genetic needs.
We also looked at ways of stopping her becoming quite so excited and hyped up. Clicker will help to engage her brain and show her what it is they do want as opposed to just trying to stop her doing what they don’t want.
With calming strategies in place at home and a generally calmer dog, the lady should be able to start taking Bonnie out again. This she will do gradually, by breaking it into stages and dealing with things one at a time.
At the moment Bonnie runs away when the lady picks up her harness. We will introduce a comfortable Perfect Fit and, bit by bit, a step at a time, change Bonnie’s life.
With the dog now happy wearing a harness, the lady will initially work on going in and out of the door, over and over. Bonnie has pulled her over in his manic eagerness to get to the car. (Dogs living in flats go out so often they are seldom excited).
Soon they will again get into the car and arrive at the field. A long line will give considerable freedom. How frustrating it must have been for Bonnie, a working dog, to walk through fields on a short lead, unable to explore, sniff or chase.
When they turned to walk back to the car, Bonnie used to become uncontrollable, jumping up at the lady and humping her.
Now, to start with, they will stay within a hundred yards of the car. Within this range and with 15 metres of line, Bonnie can decide where she goes and what she does.
If the lady is still worried about Bonnie charging and pulling her over, she can tie the long line to the car.
Gradually, over the days, the lady can take her further afield.