Today we had this sweet little lad in for his first session with us due to his aggression towards his owners while out on walks.
Arnie would pick a particular point of his walk to begin jumping up and biting his owner. Over time this problem has become worse and worse to the point that each time they tried to take him out he’d get out of the car and immediately begin trying to bite.
As soon as Arnie made it out of the car today he did exactly the same thing and we could see what was going on and what we were going to need moving forwards.
Arnie was fine at one stage, going out for walks, going to training, evening beginning agility training, all without issue. One day a group of kids started to set off fireworks outside of the home and he’s got progressively worse and worse since.
The issue that they were experiencing is that the environmental stress he was under when outside of the house or car was too much for him. At one stage he’d panicked, redirected onto his owner and been taken back from the walk into the car. Since then he’s successful done this hundreds of times and become very efficient at it.
Arnie’s learnt that the way to reduce his anxiety is by showing aggressive behaviour to create space between that which is driving his anxiety.
Once we’d put some control and handling measures in to safeguard his owners in the event of his aggressive behaviour, we went over the warning signs and how our own behaviour can trigger unwanted responses in our dogs.
Next we needed to put a plan in place for how to systematically counter condition a better response to external stimuli and environmental exposure. We achieved this by keeping exposure very short, keeping him engaged, creating a high reward history, and by avoiding handling errors that were creating instability in his behaviour.
Because of the severity of his response and the nature of how it began the plan will take time to really make dramatic progress in Arnie’s confidence outside of the home, but this is simply necessary when working with fear and phobias in dogs. The faster you try and push them, the longer it will take.
Hats off to Arnie’s owners as this certainly hasn’t been easy for them. Now they have the tools at their disposal they can begin restoring some normality back into their routines moving forward.