Harry was three when he came to me, two years ago from a rescue centre and this is his story so far.
After six months it became obvious I needed expert help to handle him and I contacted Mike Grantham of Rewarding Dogs. Were it not for my having just one session with Mike which gave me such good direction in how to handle Harry followed up by receiving Harry’s Behaviour Modification Programme booklet (to which I still refer) I do not believe I would not have this story to write as I couldn’t have coped with Harry without Mike’s help….thank you so very much, Mike.
Harry’s nervousness was evident from the beginning, he had frequent tummy upsets, he was very fussy about what he would eat, and he regularly brought up bile in the mornings. He had constant diarrhoea, his rear end needing daily washing to clean him up which provoked snarling. He barked at everything and anything. His waking thought was of the arrival of the postman and he stood on guard at the front door waiting for the confrontation.
Harry had a number of triggers that resulted in an aggressive reaction of snarling and looking very fierce and threatening. To have approached him at this time would I am sure have resulted in sustaining a severe bite. The triggers were: when he was told ‘no’ with the command to go to his bed; when he saw a stick being carried; when shoes, specifically trainers made shuffling noises on the floor; when arms were gesticulating. These instances were worrying enough but it was Harry’s extreme agitation when a visitor rang the bell and/ or when people were leaving that made me enlist Mike’s help. I then came to see that all his reactions was based on fear and once I had taken charge and he was reassured he would always offer his paw as if to say’ sorry’ and that ended the episode.
Mike’s assessment of Harry was that he had an anxious nature and had come from an unstable background. He must on no account be allowed to feel that he was responsible for looking after me!
Initially, Harry and I went to first level obedience classes. These he found difficult, not from his ability to learn but from the environment being too stressful. After attending several times it became obvious he had too much to cope with as he started to hyperventilate, there was nothing to be gained by carrying on.
With no idea how Harry would react by being off the lead or around other dogs, he went for walks on the lead in areas that became familiar with short periods off the lead at first. Harry is now quite the ‘little dog about the beach’ every body’s friend irrespective if you have four feet or just two!
To offer Harry further opportunities to be with other dogs he started ‘daycare’ with a friend who has dog boarders and daycare dogs. Harry often found himself among a sizeable pack of all breeds and none, most of whom where much bigger than him. This didn’t faze him one bit and he readily adapted to pack life, in fact he seemed to very much enjoy the company as he is so busy checking what’s going on he has earned the title of ‘shop steward’.
This is looking very bright and happy for Harry. He has developed into a most companionable little dog, much admired for his handsomeness, for his beautiful coat and generally appealing ‘cute’ disposition. He has something of the showman about him, he would have wowed the ring judges I am sure but then I am a little biased!
I still have work to do, some reshaping of behaviour around the postman, who he will now let live but Harry still wants to be seen as a bit scary. He will let passengers into the car but he has to make his verbal presence felt first. But with a quick reference to Harry’s Behaviour Modification Booklet, nothing I can’t cope with.
To Mike, I am immensely grateful and would urge anyone who struggles with a dog’s behaviour to seek his help as it is a very rewarding experience.