Mark was referred for a behaviour consultation with his Great Dane, Eros, to behaviour specialist, Karen Yeandle.
This is a brief summary of their story. Mark purchased Eros, his 10 month old Great Dane at 10 weeks, had him vaccinated and started socialising him with people and dogs - all according to plan.
However in those early weeks Mark’s brother, Andy, visited. He is a rather loudly-spoken man who rough-housed Eros - and Eros growled at him.
Initially, Mark and Andy thought it amusing that this little puppy had reacted this way, but over subsequent months the behaviour became more serious. Mark repeatedly scolded Eros to correct the behaviour but as this didn’t resolve it, he sought the advice of a dog trainer who told him to use a ‘water pistol’ on the dog. On the first two visits Mark thought it was working – Eros stopped growling and backed away. However on the third occasion, Eros not only growled but barked and lunged aggressively at Andy – it had made it much worse. Over a short period of time this behaviour generalised to all male visitors, then to women and eventually to people inside and out.
Mark was now becoming desperate. Following a referral from Mark’s vet, Karen established that Eros was a highly reactive dog, depressed, and difficult to walk because of his reaction towards people. He would need a complete over-haul of his routine and management if they were to help him overcome his deep-seated anti-social behaviours.
Over a period of a few days, Mark instigated a new regime for his beloved dog. He increased the number of highlights in Eros’s day – including play, food searches and chewing opportunities. The water pistol was thrown in the bin, as Eros perceived it as punishing - instead of correcting his behaviour, it had further increased his anxiety and confirmed Andy’s presence as bad news which was why his attempts to make Andy go away had increased.
After just two weeks, Mark reported Eros as already happier and calmer. With Karen’s help, he then started working towards changing his dog’s negative associations into positive ones, (by incorporating de-sensitisation and counter-conditioning,) so that Eros could start to see the presence of other people as good news. There was no quick fix. Mark knew the importance of not pushing Eros too quickly and working at Eros’s own pace, but after approximately 4 months, Mark and Eros were able to attend one of Karen’s training classes - all in the presence of other dogs and handlers of course, and went onto to successfully complete more courses up to Graduate level. Quite a feat for this big dog, and one which confirmed his steady behavioural progress.
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