I just had a phone call from a man with a very nervous little Jack Russell Terrier. He is currently deciding whether to have the dog put to sleep or to try and rehabilitate it. I am hoping they give the dog a chance and at least get me out for a consult so I can give a more in depth opinion on its chances.
First rule: when someone says ‘do not pat my dog’. You should always respect that – too often I have heard stories of dogs gone biting someone after the owner has requested the dog be left alone with the response from the other party “but I’m good with dogs”. The interesting thing (and frustrating for all good trainers out there) is that these people took this dog to obedience school when they realised there was a problem with doggy not loving new people. After asking the instructor not to pat the dog and the instructor ignoring the owners and patting the dog, they were asked not to come back (the dog bit the instructor) – Incidentally, this is a fault of the school and training system, not the owners who were trying to get help.
So, they sought help from a local trainer who did in home visits. This trainer told them that the dog needed to go to the vet for medication and that it should wear a muzzle, but left them with no other training tips. The vet decided the dog did not need medicating and told them to keep the dog at home, and on a lead in public and away from people. That was 2 years ago. We are now facing a situation where the dog has bitten a family member who was visiting over the Christmas period and the family is trying to work out whether to keep the dog, try and rehome it, or put it to sleep.
So the moral of this story is, if you are looking for help with your dog, and you have had a trainer out or go to a dog school, if you think it isn’t working – don’t give up! Please. Call the trainer, call the school, email them and ask for help. If they give up, they either need to help you understand why they can’t help you, and then I encourage you to look around and call other trainers – it is very rare that a dog can’t be rehabilitated fully or to a point where the undesirable behaviour is controlled and manageable.