Posted: 20.02.21 at 08:30 by Philippa Davies
Donna Green is an East Devon based, professionally qualified pet behaviour expert. She offers dog training and animal behaviour advice to help owners understand their pets better and tackle behavioural problems.
In her latest column, she describes her first ever dog behaviour assignment - a dog that had developed a fear of being put on the lead for a walk.
The first case that was referred to me highlights the importance of ensuring you check the credentials of the individual before you employ their services. It is the same as servicing your car, you would only use a qualified mechanic.
‘Tess’ was referred to me in 2004 by my employer following an annual check-up and vaccinations. She was a three-year-old female neutered Border Collie. She was in good general health but very overweight. She lived with her two owners in a third-floor flat in a city environment.
Six months previously Tess had started showing signs of not wanting her lead attaching to her collar, to the extreme of baring her teeth whilst lying in her bed. Her owners started getting distressed over this behaviour and employed an individual they had seen advertising as a pet behaviourist.
On completion of the consultation, they were instructed not to walk Tess for at least one month so she would learn that walks were a good thing. The report was handwritten on a scrap piece of paper. This advice cost Tess’s owners £250.
So, I was presented with a beautiful dog that still did not like its lead put on, but was under exercised, under mentally stimulated and very overweight.
After a detailed discussion it was decided to start daily exercise but also to work on Tess’s anxiety about the lead and collar. She had no history of any trauma to her neck or head area and the owners could not indicate when this behaviour started.
Tess had already had a thorough veterinary examination, so this was not needed. Usually, I would request this as it is important to rule out any medical reasons for the behaviour before behavioural management is undertaken.
My recommendations included:
• Purchase Tess a good quality harness. Put it on her, but don’t take any further action, so that Tess learns not to be scared of it, and starts allowing them to put it on her without resisting. Avoid harnesses that put pressure on the shoulders as these can damage the shoulder joints.
• Encourage Tess out of her bed as this seemed to be key to the issue. Many dogs will feel safe in their beds and as such when in their beds should be left alone.
• Use a slip lead to loop around her neck in the beginning to gain access to her. Tess calmed down as soon as the lead was attached.
• Increase mental stimulation, both outside on walks and in the home. This was advised to benefit Tess but also to build on the relationship between her and her owners.
• She was also placed on a weight loss diet which was carefully monitored through the veterinary practice.
Tess attended the Veterinary Practice every two weeks for weight checks, I also assessed her behaviour and within one month both Tess and her owners appeared happier and they were able to remove and replace the harness with no issues.
Disclaimer: if your pet is experiencing problems contact a qualified behaviour counsellor so they can design a programme suitable for you and your pet and work closely with you.
For more information, visit Donna’s website.
You can contact Donna on 07523 202913, or by emailing [email protected]