Bandit is super attached to Pud. Super attached.

We are working on some behavior modifications to rein in Bandit’s attachment to his boy, and channel it into acceptable behaviors.

For example, Bandit gets extremely anxious if separated from his boy. He is beginning to show signs of being over-protective, or guarding, as well. You can understand, then, why it is essential to nip this in the bud now.

He has jumped the fence to find a way into the house to get to Pud, or to go looking for us. Not good. An anxious, worried dog out in the neighborhood is a dangerous thing for neighbors, who may unknowingly trigger fearful aggression behaviors in an already-stressed dog. We don’t want this to happen, and we have a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen. We are, fortunately, aware of this, and since his pattern of yard escapes had increased recently, we got serious about addressing Bandit’s behaviors last weekend, after a (fortunate) conversation with our next-door neighbors.

Solutions:

• Bandit doesn’t get to be in the yard without human supervision anymore. This allows us to recognize stressed behaviors and intervene to help reduce stress.

• More exercise. We walk longer and more frequently, because sometimes dogs channel frustrations with lack of exercise into neurotic and annoying behaviors.

• New tasks. Since Bandit really loves his Pud, he is given the task of helping keep an eye on him at specific times. For example, Bandit is often asked to “watch the baby” while he naps and come get me when he wakes up. We are working on building up to a “block” command, so that Bandit can go stand between Pud and danger, blocking him from running through the door or to the stairs or whatever until we can catch up. Bandit also needs tasks completely unrelated to Pud, and that is taking some creative thinking on my part. I’m still working through this, with the help of B.

• More mental stimulation. We ask Bandit to eat meals in the yard sometimes- we scatter kibble in the grass and he has to sniff it out to eat. We use puzzles, practice tricks, and provide new games that require thinking. These wear him out and keep him thinking, which makes for a much happier dog.

• More car rides and public work. When I stop to think about myself and how stir-crazy I get from being home all the time, it’s easy to understand why Bandit is feeling this way. He worked as a service dog full-time for a couple of years, but now he’s not. Poor guy- no wonder he needed to run out.

• Anti-anxiety strategies. We use Bandit’s Thundershirt, which provides pressure to help him feel more relaxed, as well as some calming TTouches. We provide occasional outlets for extra stress in the form of really awesome bones and rawhides, because chewing is a self-soothing behavior.

• More socialization! One of the reasons Bandit’s been getting out and his separation anxiety has skyrocketed is because he hasn’t been going to work with B for awhile. He still meets B’s support needs, but only at home in the evenings. Once Callie was able to resume her job, Bandit was left with the “Now what?” feelings. We have been, for various good and not-so-great reasons, not getting Bandit out to visit with people as much and this is absolutely one of his favorite activities. This week, my goal is to start finding opportunities to get him working in a therapy role again, visiting with people who need some therapeutic puppy love in their lives.

It is easy, when a baby gets added to the family, to neglect the furballs’ ongoing needs for continuous training, affection, socialization, and exercise. It is embarrassing to admit to having gotten in such straits, but humbling, as well. It is easier to accept that dog lovers and owners screw up sometimes, and that they can possibly do so very, very gradually.

In the midst of all the changes our family has been through in the past year, it is remarkable that the furballs have held themselves together as well as they have, and that they are as affectionate, patient, tolerant, and loving as they are towards the source of 85% of those changes.

Have you discovered that your human family changes have affected your fur family more than you intended?

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