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Socialising dogs – some readers’ problems

Managing dogs that are fearful towards other dogs and humans ...

spaniel puppy

Socialising a dog early on is crucial

Q: I have a 20-month-old Labrador dog who lives in the house with two Labrador bitches aged five and eight. He is being trained as a gundog and works fine with dogs that he knows. He was introduced to unfamiliar puppies from an early age and attended puppy classes.

When he was a puppy he was lunged at by several dogs and used to rough play with my younger bitch. The problem now is that when out walking on or off lead he is aggressive towards other dogs. How can I remedy this behaviour? (Read how to get your dog used to others.)

A: This could be quite a complex issue and may need the help of a trainer on a one-to-one basis to identify the cause and the solution.

He is 20 months old and full of testosterone and living with two bitches may, of course make his hormone levels worse. He is also reaching maturity and sees other dogs as a threat to his position in life.

The scenario may be that he is protective of whoever is walking him and is just telling other dogs to stay out of his space. The rough play as a youngster does not usually cause aggression, neither should the puppy classes if they were conducted properly and it was not just a free-for-all.

I would worry that this may get worse and when he is out shooting the worst thing is to have an unpredictable dog. I have seen the results of one such animal that used to leap on the beaters’ trailer and guard it ferociously, particularly when the pheasants had been hung on the rails at the back. You need to find a good dog training instructor to help with this problem, someone qualified in companion 
dogs or behaviour. Look up “KCAI trainers” online to access the list of accredited instructors.

Why doesn’t my gundog like strangers?

Q: My otherwise confident and approachable six-month-old gundog behaves erratically around guests.

When we get visitors she barks constantly and wets all over the floor before running off into her basket.

We have tried introducing and socialising her with our visitors but she is not interested. She continues to wet the floor and has to be shut away. Do you have any advice?

A:  All these symptoms point towards kennel fatigue.

This is when a gun dog has not been taken outside its known environment and had a chance to socialise with other gun dogs and people.

Shutting the gun dog away will only make things worse and much more stressful.

I would start your young gun dog off with short walks around a car park, where she can familiarise herself with lots of different sights and sounds, traffic and people.

Should you have any problems whilst in these surroundings, give her lots of reassurance and totally calm her down each time.

When she has calmed down give her a small treat and she will associate this as a positive with the unfamiliar surroundings and strangers.

I would repeat this training exercise every day until your dog has totally accepted these surroundings and then move on to a new location and repeat the same exercise.

Your young dog needs to be out and about in different locations and surroundings as often as possible.