Our two small terriers, Chloe and Dagger, both have very different natures. The younger dog, Dagger (with the rough coat), is a pretty chilled out dog who is confident and relaxed most of the time, and not much bothers him for the most part.
The older one, Chloe, is a bright and intelligent dog, but unfortunately, she has an anxious nature and is very sensitive. When she was a puppy, she would bark at our next-door neighbour every time he walked past our back garden to get into his own property. As a result, the neighbour and Chloe fell out, and it got to the point where my neighbour (obviously not a dog lover) would threaten her with sticks and rolled-up newspapers, throw stones at her and fire a water pistol into her face whenever she barked at him. There was no way she could actually hurt him because she was securely fenced in, and I think that his behaviour antagonised her and made her bark even more. I am fairly sure that being exposed to this type of threatening behaviour as a pup is what contributed toward her anxious disposition as she got older.
As Chloe grew into an adult dog, she became increasingly aggressive towards strangers (particularly men) and after we got Dagger the problem became worse. Chloe seemed to be a bad influence on Dagger and when we were out walking, Chloe would bark at strangers, and Dagger would join in. It got to the point where both dogs were acting extremely aggressively towards almost every person that we walked past in the street and in the woods. This became embarrassing as we live in a small village and our dog’s aggressive behaviour was beginning to cause tension between us and other locals.
The problem came to a head in March 2010, when we were walking through the woods one morning. There was a group of orienteerers ahead of us, and Chloe and Dagger began barking at one of the people in the group. I put both dogs back on their lead and continued on the walk. We walked in a loop and came across the same group of people standing in the path ahead of us. They were obviously very angry about having been barked at, and as we got closer to the group, one of the men stepped towards me and berated me for allowing my dogs to bark at his friend. At this point, Chloe (who was on the lead as was Dagger at this point) without warning jumped up and bit the man on the leg.
To cut a long story short, the man reported to the incident to the police, and I received a visit from the police, who reported the incident to the procurator fiscal. I then received a letter informing me that I was being charged over the matter and that I was required to attend court.
Immediately after the biting incident, my husband and I decided that we had to do something to improve our dog’s behaviour. Things could not go on as they were, and a few months before the court case came up, we spoke to our local vet about the problem and she gave us Mike’s business card.
I contacted Mike, and he came out to our house and spent about four hours assessing the dog’s behaviour and showing us how to train them to be calm and obedient. Mike explained to us that Chloe was being aggressive because she felt anxious around strangers. Her aggressive behaviour was a way of protecting herself from perceived threats. In order to stop the aggression, we had to make Chloe understand that we, the humans, were in control of every situation and that she did not have to protect or defend herself because that is our job.
He wrote us out a behavioural change programme detailing everything that we needed to do to sort out the problems with our dogs, particularly Chloe, as she was the ringleader most of the time.
We put a lot of time and effort into making the necessary changes, and we saw Mike another three times for shorter sessions so that he could assess the dogs to see if things were improving or not.
After a few months of effort on our part, Chloe and Dagger were like different dogs. They stopped barking at people and now they are never aggressive towards people and very rarely aggressive towards other dogs. They are both more obedient and Chloe is a much calmer dog who a lot more relaxed most of the time. Also, since we have implemented Mike’s programme, we have a much better relationship with our dogs and we enjoy their company more.
When Mike was satisfied that Chloe was no longer acting aggressively to strangers, he wrote a letter which my solicitor showed to the judge on the day of the court case. In the letter, Mike stated that in his professional opinion, Chloe was no longer a dangerous dog. As a result of the letter that Mike wrote, the case was thrown out, much to our intense relief!
I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for Mike, that there would not have been such a happy ending to this stressful story. Indeed there was a very real possibility that Chloe would have been destroyed as a result of the biting incident in the woods that day.
Even though it was a very worrying time for us, in a way the biting incident turned out to be a positive thing because it caused us to take action and do something to change what was becoming an increasingly troublesome situation with our dogs.
Now we have two calm, obedient (most of the time) terriers and the locals in our village often make comments about how much better our dogs are behaving!