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All we want to do is play

Today was a very good one because a problem that the owners could only see as difficult and worrying, learned not only how to solve it, but saw it resolved.

Some days earlier, a man telephoned me to say his young dog was causing them considerable concern. It was rushing up to other dogs and showing a substantial amount of aggression, but not actually biting. They feared that if it goes on any further, then biting might be the next step. They had two dogs but the other, which was also young, they considered was not a problem.

We made an appointment for today, even though the forecast was heavy rain. Fortunately, the day was dry and a welcome change from all the rain we had been experiencing of late.

When they arrived, I placed Winston in the puppy enclosure and following our introductions, I asked them to let their young German shepherd out of the car. After an initial sniff round the garden, it ran over towards Winston with lots of aggressive barking. She had her hackles slightly raised, but there was a slight indication of a wagging tail. For Winston, he barked playfully but without him showing any sign of his heckles at all. This meant he dig not recognise any aggression in her.

As I watched them, the next time she lunged towards Winston, I fired compressed air between them both. This had the desired effect and the German shepherd backed off. She made a few more lunges but faced with compressed air; she gave up and went back to sniffing the garden.

I asked the owner to put their dog on one of the safety lines, whilst I put Winston’s muzzle and harness on him. I then attached him to the other safety line and brought him towards their shepherd. It seemed that Winston was more interested in meeting the owners than their dog, but eventually I did manoeuvre him close enough so she could smell him. This meeting ritual is so important for dogs for without it, dogs will resort to aggression.

Seeing that the aggression was easily controlled, I asked the owner to let their dog off the safety line and place the remote controlled citronella collar on her. I also released Winston and asked them to let their other dog, which was a spaniel, out of their car. This dog did in fact have a problem but different to the other only in the way it reacted to other dogs. Whilst the German shepherd would rush in and threaten to attack in order to keep other dogs away, the spaniel would run away screaming as if Winston were attacking it. The owners were thinking that this was not a problem as the spaniel only returned to them for protection.

I asked them to put the spaniel away for a short time whilst we could then take a walk up the fields with their dog and Winston. There were a few more lunges at him but the remote citronella collar did its job. Eventually she did go up to Winston and start to sniff at him properly. After that, she was no longer a problem.

The one thing I had to do was keep talking to the owners. Again, their anxiety may well have contributed to the anxiety in their dogs. Talking to them, whilst I kept an eye on their dog, meant that I kept their concern under control. As a result, their dog soon settled down and showed that it wanted to play, just like any other dog that I have stopping with me.

Returning to the car park, I let Ruby out of my car. She is a whippet cross and is a lovely natured dog that is currently stopping with me. She is waiting to complete her six months quarantine to be able to travel to the United Kingdom. She loves to play and certainly, for the female shepherd, she liked Ruby and finally gave her the sign of Play Bow, showing she wanted to play. This was indeed excellent progress. I now put Winston on his lead so Ruby could take over.

I asked the owners to let their spaniel out of the car. Once again the same thing happened, it ran away screaming as if Ruby was about to kill her, when all she wanted to do was to meet her and sniff. I also asked if they would remove the remote collar and replace this with the anti bark citronella one. This type activates automatically so if the shepherd were to attack, her bark would release the compressed air and stop her in her tracks.

One problem was when ever Ruby or their spaniel barked, this also set off the collar so though the shepherd was doing nothing wrong; it was getting the compressed air treatment.

In order to give the spaniel some more space, we once again walked up the fields. After a few more screaming sessions, these finally died away and though it ran back to the owners for some protection, its tail was now wagging. Spaniels look quite nice with a long tail.

It was not long before Ruby started into her mad run, hotly pursued by both their dogs. At last, we had reached playtime.

Whilst talking to the owners, it was obvious that cans of compressed air worked, as did the Remote controlled and automatic collars. Their concern of course was that their dog, once off the lead, the can of compressed air would not be effective at a distance. The automatic collar could go off because of their other dog barking, so they felt that it was not a good idea. I explained that, as their dog barked whenever she lunged at other dogs, this meant they did not have to keep a keen eye on her all the time; the collar would do that for them. Though they liked the remote controlled version, this meant they needed to remain more vigilant.

My suggestion was to try the cans of compressed air with their dog whilst on the lead. Doing it this way, they could reduce her aggression towards other dogs. The other important issue was that they should also learn to control their own anxiety, as this was contributing to both their dog’s reactions. This they agreed to try, but said they wanted to return and purchase the remote controlled version in a few days. They felt that to handle their anxiety, they needed to feel totally in control, which is what this type would do for them.

What they both did agreed on, was that within an hour and a half from having two dogs that were fearful of meeting others, they could see all four were now walking and playing together. This they never expected to see. Even the spaniel had stopped his screaming and he was now running round after Ruby with his tail wagging in excitement.

If it is possible to achieve so much in such a short time, imagine what their dogs could be like in a week, if they practiced sociability training.

Modern dogs do not have to hunt for food to survive. All they need is safety, food, a secure place to sleep and that you allow them to play. Do you not agree that watching dogs playing together is a lovely sight?

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