Jane Allyson arrived at the Canine & Feline Behaviour Centre gates in her jeep; the large vehicle was rocking from side to side and I assumed that she must have ten or so dogs inside. She slid out of the door managing to keep the dog in the car whilst she began to describe that her newly acquired dog, Dinky, had a few problems and she was in desperate need for some help. I explained the process and invited her to come in the following week for a behaviour consultation.
As Jane arrived at the gate I went to let her in, she managed a smile as her car was rocking around in the driveway.
Jane parked and opened the back of the car and out flew Dinky – the largest Great Dane / mastiff cross you could imagine.
Jane flew out of the way as Dinky rushed off to investigate the surroundings; fortunately the gate had been locked to prevent him running to the road.
Two of Jane’s children had come for the consultation, Ben aged eight and Jade aged sixteen. Ben stayed in the car to avoid Dinky knocking him over. Jade managed somehow to attach a lead to Dinky and he then proceeded to drag her (the long way) around to the consulting room. Once inside, I asked Jade to attach Dinky by his lead and collar to a ‘dog parking hook’ on the wall.
Over coffee and with Dinky restricted, Jane began to describe the problems.
Dinky was a rescued dog aged twelve months and the Allyson family had owned him for four weeks
Over those four weeks the following had occurred: Dinky had dragged Jade of her feet chasing after the postman whilst barking – escaped from Jade’s grip and cornered the postman in someone’s front garden after causing two cars to screech to a halt on a main road and grazing Jade’s face. Dinky grabbed Jane’s ex husband when he came to pick up the children. He attacked another dog in the park and bit Jade’s hand whilst she attempted to intervene. Dinky broke through the 5’ gate and escaped for three hours. Dinky bit Ben in the face when Ben walked past him whilst he was eating – on two separate occasions. Dinky bit the electricity man on the bum causing ripped trousers and bleeding. In addition, Dinky had bitten another sixteen people.
I asked why they had not sought help sooner or indeed why they had not returned the dog to the rescue kennel after day one when they first saw how Dinky’s attitude was forming. A long story ensued as is often the case. In brief, they had owned a Dane Mastiff cross previously and this dog had the most perfect temperament, but had died recently. Jade was working in the rescue kennels at weekends and got extremely attached to Dinky and saw him homed and returned five times in six weeks. Moreover, Jade was so distraught at the death of her previous dog that she was put on medication and received counselling to cope with her grief. On top of this, the rescue home were going to have him put to sleep if the Allyson family could not manage him. The whole family were now extremely attached to Dinky despite his somewhat antisocial behaviour.
The complexities of this case were obvious and really this dog was completely unsuited to life with this family. My concerns were that with such a strong emotional attachment due to the previous dog was clouding their views about what was sensible, practical and safe. Seeing Jade walking this huge dog would fill anybody with dread. Where the dog went Jade followed. Such a number of bites and attacks at such a young age and such a confident dog would not be easy to work with. Jane and the family were agreed that they would keep the dog and never walk it if that was the only answer.
Against my better judgement and bearing in mind that I have to now take on some responsibility for Dinky’s behaviour.
If he goes to bite a person, I am sure that the press or the police would arrive at my door to see why I had allowed this dog to go into society with these great risks to people. I set down some programmes for the whole family to follow through with Dinky for the next two weeks to see how much we could improve him in that time. They left the consultation completely clear of the risks that they were taking, my advice and an appointment the following day for a training session to put some control in place to enable Jane and Jade to walk the dog without problems.
I asked for Jane and Jade to come in earlier than the rest of the new dogs so that I could really see how Dinky could be handled in that environment with so many other dogs and people. I spent twenty minutes teaching them how to walk Dinky to heel and what to do if he displayed any aggression. They both picked it up immediately and Dinky quickly got in-
This family were so desperate to keep Dinky that they followed every little bit of advice and gleaned all that they could from myself and the other instructors.
By week three, Dinky was off lead and interacting with the other dogs – credit to Jane and Jade taking Dinky to the park every day for training. His recall and heelwork was perfect. On week eight of the course they completed their good citizen test bronze award.
They continued with their training and when they passed their silver test, they were ecstatic with Dinky’s behaviour being handled by the unfamiliar examiner. Through their work together, Dinky had learnt to trust the family completely and they gradually learnt to trust him with fantastic results.
Jade now competes with Dinky in agility, having total control off lead. Since I first met the family, Dinky has been a model citizen and has never displayed any aggression to anyone since. This credit has to lie, not with me, but with a truly remarkable family who did not wish to fail in reforming this dog’s behaviour and showing Dinky that there are some nice people around!
When I watch Jade running around the agility circuit with Dinky flying through hoops and tunnels and over fences, I get a little lump in my throat when I think back to when I first met her and she was dragged into the consulting room as if she weighed nothing at all. The family continue to train Dinky everyday and all enjoy an improved quality of life. It’s when I see a result like this that I really appreciate being able to do this job.
By Ross McCarthy MCFBA MGoDT MBIPDT
Just checking through old folders on e-
Dinky is the most amazing pet, and the fact that he got another chance is all down to you. He is so loyal, obedient (never thought I would say that), absolutely devoted to his owners and such a pleasure to be with. Ben who used to be so scared of him is totally committed to him. Dinky trusts and obeys him implicitly. Jade still spoils him rotten, but Dinky actually looks to me for affirmation before carrying out commands from her if I am nearby. Of course on the agility field, he never takes his eyes of her and is completely responsive. Liam can now ‘play rough’ again with him without Dinky overstepping the mark.
He is truly a wonderful family friend. One in a million.
Thank you Ross
The Allyson Crew! Woofs and Licks from Dinky!!