Murray: Noise sensitivity, lack of manners.
I first contacted Elaine when my Tibetan Terrier (Murray) was 5 months old. He was a challenging puppy pretty much from day one, very mouthy and super mischievous, but for the most part he was lovely and definitely loved . By 4 months he was fully house trained, understood and followed basic commands, attended puppy classes, had been well socialised, was friendly meeting new people and other dogs, and was gradually improving on the mouthiness front. But…
One day, as we approached home from a walk, he got what appeared to me to be, an out of the blue attack of the crazies. He started leaping about and biting at my clothes. For a week or so after that, he’d repeat the nuts behaviour at the same place each time we took that walking route, but not elsewhere. Then he started having bitey crazy episodes in other random locations when we were out walking. He was so hyper during these episodes that he was entirely deaf to commands he’d follow at other times.
I asked for some advice from the trainers at our puppy class, and while I wasn’t particularly comfortable following the guidance, it seemed to be working and the crazy behaviour decreased from at some point on every walk, to maybe once every third walk. That lasted for about a week, then he started backsliding. He was again having a crazy fit on most walks and his behaviour at home, also started to deteriorate.
Murray’s my third dog, so I wasn’t a puppy novice, but nothing in my experience was helping me resolve his problem behaviour and by this point I had multiple pairs of puppy shredded jeans. My gut instinct was I was missing something and that if I could just understand WHY, some underlying route cause, I could fix it. So I wrote to Elaine.
She called me back the same day, we discussed some short term actions and set up a home consultation.
Before our first meeting, Elaine had reviewed a behaviour diary and the answers to a lengthy questionnaire she’d provided. She ‘met’ Murray by observing him in a pre agreed, specific set of circumstances, then spent over 3 hours with us, observing and discussing. By the end of the afternoon I was positive (and relieved) my instincts had been correct, because Elaine had broken down Murray’s behaviour into a selection of issues; poor frustration management and noise anxiety, initially, being the most prominent. Identified the route cause of them; being bottle fed by the breeder rather than natural managed feeding by his mum, and insufficient very early (pre 8 weeks) socialisation to outside noises. And came up with an action plan for us. We received the action plan we’d discussed, in writing, a couple of days later.
In the weeks and months since, Elaine’s provided loads of e-mail and phone support. We’ve had a follow up one to one in a Glasgow park, so she could observe our progress and update our ‘to do’ list. We’ve also attended some of her training classes which are very far removed from my previous training class experiences, lots more fun and in Murray’s case, more productive.
There have been no quick fixes, and it’s not always been easy. It’s also true that I’ve experienced as much ‘behaviour modification’ training from Elaine, as Murray has. But the important bit is, it worked!
Murray is now 9 and a half months old and a pleasure to walk and live with. His behaviour isn’t perfect, we still have work to do, but I can now legitimately use expressions like ‘occasionally boisterous’, instead of ‘nuts’, ‘crazy’ and ‘destructive’. I’m also really optimistic that one day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be walking through the park, feeling smug that my dog’s among best behaved.
On the first day we met, after she’d left her car at an ‘interesting’ angle outside my house, Elaine said to me, ‘don’t worry, I’m a much better behaviourist than I am a parker’.
She was right!
Lynn & Murray