> I have
come up with a problem and to me a worrying one. My 16 month old
Labrador has always been a bit nervous of some people, others he loves.
> may remember he had to be confined to a crate at 16 weeks for 4
> then the following four weeks confined to a room, so he lost
> socialisation time.>
I can only give some general advice since it takes
more than an e-mail contact to be entirely sure about someone's dog. To start
with the nice pedigree only gives you a fair chance to get a mentally and
physically sound dog, better chance than average, so to say.(BTW do you have
this "so to say" expression in English?) Even the best litter can contain a
"black" puppy, when a semen meets the egg cell there are some 5 million or
something possible combinations of DNA. I do not know about your puppy, I just
mention the possibility.
From what I have seen from the "problematic" dogs
that comes to our obedience classes they can all, with very few exceptions, be
cured by depriving them of the leadership over their pack. If they still, after
some demanding obedience work for a length of time, are problematic then it can
be suspected that they have some kind of a mental fault. What a "mental fault"
is depends to some extent of what you expect from a dog. A "fault" in one dog
can be an advantage in another depending of the duty they have to
When we speak about birddogs and retrievers we do
not expect them to have, and do not want them to have, agressivity. However they
sometimes or often, depending of breeding lines, have a poor nerve stability. We
often do the mistake to in those cases to believe that the dog has inherited
agressivity but most often it does not have it. What it does when it meets a
strange signal, that could be a lively child on the street, it can not make a
fast and correct evaluation of the situation but becomes scared and reacts with
either escape or agressivity (that is a behaviour, by definition; with a
purpose to increase the distance to an individual or a group of
My advice is to, in the long term, increase the
demands in the obedience. A lot of heeling work with very high demands for very
fast reactions to commands. The dog should not be in charge of anything! You
take care of strangers you meet on the streets, the dog should not even be
allowed to greet them even if you stand and talk to each other for an hour. It
should sit beside you or better yet, behind you. Go to an Irish retriever
trainer, they know how to do it!
I believe you also want an instant solution. Do
You need an assistant that is rather fit when it
comes to "timing". Someone who knows dogs to some degree and who is very
resolute and absolutely not hesitating in any situation. Take one of these
plastic bags you use to carry home food in from the supermarket. Put in a
suitable number of empty tins, try out the number of tins so that when you throw
the bag down the road you will get as much rattle and noise as possible. Do not
let the dog see or hear your experiments. Another option is a big fistful of
steel chain of some kind.
Then you need children that are used to dogs. If
the dog knows the children then make the exercise with the children downwind.
They could also be dressed like witches or something to make sure the dog does
not know them. Tell the children to move and behave in such away that the child
did when attacked by your dog.
Now you must put everything together. On some empty
road arrange so that the children, coming from the downwind direction, will meet
you and your assistant at some point. You and your assistant will walk towards
the children, who behaves according to your instructions and are dressed in an
unusual way, with the dog on a long lead. Your assistant will carry the bag with
tins or the chain, ready to throw it at the dog when the timing is correct. The
children should walk on one side of the road, you and your dog at heel on the
Your assistant must be ready to throw the bag or
chain just after the dog has started to attack and not before you have shouted a
"No!". The dog must be given the needed fractions of a second to charge until it
has come so much away from you so that it does not see the throw of the bag or
There are 3 steps: Attempt to attack - NO! - throw.
No hesitation must be involved so better find a way to train this a little. The
assistant should throw the bag or chain on the dog, it does not harm in any
way but causes the needed discomfort and disturbance to discourage the dog
from doing the attack again. The children should continue to walk without taking
any notice whatsoever of the dog. Remember the dog is on a long lead and you can
control it with the lead if needed.
If things goes like I believe they will the dog
will stop immediately. Precisely at that moment call the dog back to
heel. Do not praise it in anyway, just make sure it walks to heel. After some 50
or 100 meters turn and redo the meeting, prepared to throw at the dog again (of
course your assistant will pick up the bag or chain and be ready for some more
fun at any instant).
If the next meeting goes OK, then you can
give the dog a bit of praise. Now you can plan for arranged meetings of other
objects of interest for the dog, if needed. Just make sure everyone knows
precisely what to do and do not count the timing in seconds but in fractiones of
Just remember to keep the leadership over the dog
in the future. The dog is not the Alpha, you are. The Alpha takes care of the
strangers, not the second one in the pack.
I am not sure I have made myself clear enough but
you are of course well-come to ask for more.
Borta Med Vindens Kennel
"Ask not what your dog
can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your dog."