A few days ago, I received an email from a reader asking for advice for his dog Bob, a Border Collie. The purpose of this blog is to share problems between us owners of “special” dogs and so I decided to share the story of Bob, after getting the green light from its owner.
Here is his mail:
“Bob is now nearly 1,5 years old. We’ve got him since he was 9 weeks old. As a pup, Bob was very small, scared, shy and anxious. His other brothers and sisters were more interested in humans.
Also in puppy class, Bob was a very shy puppy. He didn’t play for several weeks. But he was very obedient since the beginning! He’s so smart and definitely a quick learner! After a few months of works on socialization, he was still very shy and insecure. I’ve socialized him as much as possible.
At home, or somewhere after a walk or a playing session he can’t settle himself. He is constantly following everything that moved around him.
Today Bob is still a very insecure dog. His reaction to strangers is still insecure and anxious. He just puts himself behind me and he starts barking. At the same time, he reacts extremely hyperactive and happy to the few people he trusts. He makes weird noises and wags his tail.”
So, Bob’s problems can be summed up in two macro areas: on one hand, he is a scary and insecure dog, but at the same time he wants to interact with the people he loves and he’s not able to calm himself.
For this reason, I advised Bob’s owner to exercise in two directions: working on the self-esteem and building the concept of calm.
Working on the self-esteem
Working on the self-esteem of a dog means making sure that he believes in himself, also through his trust for the owner. So you do not have to force the dog to do things that scare him, but give him the time to understand that there is nothing to be afraid of. For example, Argos can be frightened suddenly for stupid reasons, like a plastic bag left on the ground. In this case, I try to make him understand that there is nothing to fear of, I approach the bag behaving in a relaxed and happy (oh what a beautiful bag! Amazing!) giving him all the time he needs to approach it and to realize that there is nothing to be worried. So I can finally collect the bag and throw it in the trash. Also, I helped him understand that he can handle and overcome his fears.
Another way of working on the self-esteem of a dog is to make him do things he loves and is good at. For example, we make interactive walks becauseI understand that Argos feels good about doing these little exercises. The same concept can be applied to problem solving games, provided they are not too difficult to solve because in that case, they would have the opposite effect.
Building the concept of the calm
Bob’s other big problem is not being able to calm himself, especially at home. One way to exercise the calm at home is by giving the dog something to eat or lick – like the Kong – and sit next to him. While you watch TV or read a book, the dog entertains itself and learns to don’t interact. Put the dog bed in the right place is essential for working on the calm. It is also necessary to maintain a general state of calm at home: our dog also learns by copying our behavior. Finally, since Bob tends to jump and bark with too much joy when he sees someone he loves, I advised him to ignore the dog, turning and leaving the room.
Finally, I have stressed that to solve problems of this kind it is necessary to be directly followed by a dog educator or dog instructor who understands Bob’s special needs and that my advice by mail cannot absolutely replace this figure. However, having also been on the other side, I know for sure that having someone to talk to with is really very useful.
If you have any experiences to share, do not hesitate to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.