Attacking the basketball
Family outing walk with Patty
Patty and Catherine Lungeline
Patty and family picnic
Patty and mum in buttercups
Patty and the field
The holly bush trap (part one)
Patty and the holly bush
Patty and picnic sheep
Good Patty Bad Patty – a year on
Without a doubt one of the great turning points in our family life with Patty came when she chased and caught a rat we had released from a humane trap in our home. The incredible speed at which she took hold of the adult rat and made the kill was something to behold for me as an animal behaviourist. There is a 5000 year old history of Terriers being used for vermin control and so it should be no surprise that she could show innate predatory aggression to prey. She now had Catherine, my wife and known dog phobic, firmly on her side and affection between them grew. We had experienced a rat infestation in the terrace block. We live minutes from a farm in rural Lancashire so this is not a revelation. Now we had the means to control the population!
Since the rat adventure Patty became fixated with where the rat runs seem to be in the garden. The more freedom and affection we give to her - she is no longer tethered in the garden for example - the more she seems to become fixated.
There have been times when we have played tennis ball retrieval where it’s been great. Throwing it between me and Max and Catherine, Patty is happy to play and will race and grab the ball but she shows challenging-behaviour to them in that she will only readily give the ball up to me.
She knows ‘sit’ but she will try it on. When she is throwing one of her detached-modes, Patty listens to nothing other than the shadows in her brain chemistry. She snorts the flag stones for rats like a cocaine ravaged nutter. We began to cal her a ‘crack addict’.
Now she is sleeping in our home Patty is showing mild signs of separation issues and she will cry and whine a little when I first put her away. I am going to start tethering her again and reduce the basket ball play because that type of play just winds her fixated brain up. Sometimes I think we did better in the first two weeks. Long-line work has been fun and seems to allow her to run off some frustrations but I cannot see me treating her fixation quickly if ever. I think she needs Boot Camp and calm year!
Horses for Courses
We have experienced a few strange events over the months as Patty began to settle into life with my family more and more. One night Patty started to bark aggressively at 'nothing' in the dark when I was walking her past next door at the end of a late wee-stroll. At first I thought she might have reacted to the ornamental street-light in their garden but now I think she may have seen a rat.
Some weeks later, a roofer with ladders came into the back to repair my roof tiles just as my son Max was putting Patty on the lead for an afternoon walk. She went absolutely berserk. Her alert levels were extraordinary after this event and I was worried for some time because she sounded very aggressive in this territorial mode. Eventually, I tried to analyse her behaviour and wondered if the sound of window cleaner ladders had upset her in the past. Living in a Salford backyard in her early life, Patty may have seen such events as a threat to her territory. Perhaps territorial barking had become the norm in that enclosed environment. Maybe she had spent too much time tethered in the back yard. What I had seen was that she was like a different dog in this fear-based mode because she had not shown any other episodes of aggression in the home territory.
One day when returning from a walk around the village, not just one but six pony and traps when past and she went berserk again only this time Patty managed to slip out of her collar as she backed out. Only Max’s quickness in grabbing her and holding her down prevented what could have been a real disaster. Heading home with haste, we all imagined how the potential human and animal carnage - caused by six rearing ponies and a mad dog - would have been detailed on the front page of the Chorley Guardian newspaper.
The Wild Rover
Over the months, I could see that Patty’s extreme response to sheep grazing in the field and to passing horses and riders was subsiding. I put this down to the ‘den’ effect. Having Patty sleeping or resting in her Dog Bag tent in the back room and only allowing her into our front room lounge in the evening was definitely calming her down. I used the Leave command for any target she showed hyperactivity or lunging behaviour towards.
We used a whistle and ball on a rope whilst she was on the three, 30 foot, extended horse-training leads to encourage her to return to us. We gave Patty water from a drinking bottle, which she used like a lamb would drink from a teat, and offered her food treats when she returned. Over the months, she returned to us more and more.
Our main concern remained with her ‘running off’ or roaming drive. We knew she would bolt at the first opportunity and we did not want to risk losing her. This meant she had to be tethered at all times, especially when transferring leads, climbing over fences or when the house offered an escape through open doors and the side gate.
One day, we had returned from a great session on the hill where Patty had run herself into lying down exhausted on the muddy top field. Max took her up into our bathroom to prepare her for a shower. When she has been bathed or showered Patty is a gorgeous white fluffy ball. She lies in front of the real coal fire and dries.
Max had taken off her collar and was preparing her for the shower. I was outside the open back door taking recycling waste through the side gate when Catherine opened the bathroom door. Patty took this opportunity to bolt and run she did, past me and into next doors large garden where she triggered their new Jack Russell puppy into a fit of barking at the window. Before I could get any kind of hold on her she disappeared into the bushes and over the garden wall. I helplessly watched as she raced back toward the hill and her favourite wasteland, the old quarry.
I immediately returned home to galvanise a search party and to ask Rachel for her help.
redictably, Patty had headed towards to farmland. There, horses and sheep grazed in a lovely pastoral scene and I imaged the worst if Patty reached them. I grabbed her beloved basket ball to use as a lure and hoped that we could recover her before any chasing occurred and before dark.
I found her sniffing into sandy rabbit burrows on the far hillside and signalled to Max to circle. Patty began running the perimeter fences to avoid me and at one stage ran past the horses and, much to my amazement, she ignored them completely. Catherine arrived from the farm side public footpath to help us form a pincer movement. I threw the basket ball towards her and she began to attack it. In a flash we had the collar and lead back on her and yet another potential disaster had been avoided.
Likes and dislikes of a Parsons’s Jack Russell Terrier
Going back to when Patty first came to us in February 2008, at this time Rachel gave me a useful list of likes and dislikes that ran like this:
The things Patty likes (in no particular order) February 2008
Food – she’ll try to convince you she needs more than her allowance!
Hide and seek or search and find with treats or food
Affection and sleeping
Scratching her back
I can now write with Patty soon to be 12 months with our family that she still enjoys all these aspects of life. We have taken several video films of her playing football and, if she were a human, there would be every chance that she would be playing a midfield role for England. She can dribble and hold onto the ball and even when we have several players Patty appear to be able to out run everybody when the ball has been kicked up field. Her personality comes out in these ways and anyone with a Terrier would probably tick the same boxes.
She clearly relishes her food but is often strangely shy about eating often waiting until we are out of the room. I have considered if this behaviour is to do with some kind of negative-association or even a mild dominant trait.
Initially we continued to feed Patty on the dried food Rachel had provided, in order for us to continue her normal diet. Knowing that a healthy diet can have a significant influence on dog behaviour, after a few months I contacted Oscar Pet Foods at Higher Walton and asked them about healthy dried food and Honest Label was discussed. Many professional and dog owners are aware that there is a running campaign by leading pet nutritionists and veterinarians for an end to the sale of dog foods that contain the bare minimum of ingredients whilst advertising and labels declare them to healthy.
We do also offer her a supplement of raw, organic, beef bones (safe to feed unlike cooked or chicken bones) and very lightly micro-waved mince as an occasional reward.
The things Patty dislikes (in no particular order) February 2008
Some dogs, often large ones
Squirrels and other little things – ducks, birds etc
High Visibility jackets
Postmen/ newspaper boys – even on street in the distance
People that shuffle their feet when they walk!
Travelling in the car
Objects falling or rushing towards her
If you read my earlier essay on Patty you will know that felines tended to bring on the Tourettes in her. I once attempted to hold her on a lead without inches of a strong willed cat that lives across the road but everyone’s patience wore thin after 15 minutes. The cat stood its ground and Patty continued to swear. What I did notice was that her obsession with them began to fade after about 6 months. One night we walked past a cat curled up on the ground and Patty all but ignored it.
The same slight disinterest began to develop with sheep and horses. This aspect of her changing behaviour indicated to me that she would continue to improve the longer she stayed with us. I believe it is about desensitising her to these animals. We live in a rural area and she is exposed to sheep and horses almost on a daily basis here, unlike I imagine she did in the city of Salford. This factor must have some bearing on her change in behaviour. However, if might also have something to do with lowering her natural adrenaline levels with my calming program. Even my relatives joked that we now seemed to own a different dog.
The antisocial behaviour displayed towards other dogs is an issue many of my clients are all too familiar with too. Patty may ignore one dog whilst out walking yet snarl like a demon at another. In these instances I say ‘Leave’ in a strong voice or sometimes say Heel, a command that now sends her to walk in-between my legs with just her head sticking out. This is my idea of close control.
Her various ‘negative-associations’, such as towards any person wearing a high visibility jacket, to postmen and newspaper boys or people who do anything different that she finds challenging, still affect her badly. Even Terry, our local animal-friendly postman, is not welcome at our door. When he delivered post in a red Santa outfit on Christmas Eve, Patty was uncontrollable and maniacally barked.
On the positive side, travelling in the car using the Dog Bag system, is now much improved and her once hyperactive behaviour is all but cured. She is still jumpy at the slightest noise or object behaving badly but I firmly believe that too will reduce in time.
We frequently dream of the day we can allow Patty off the leash - to see her trot alongside us - so that we can all enjoy one of our weekly, extended country walks. As a ‘roamer’, Patty chooses to bolt at any given opportunity and so this scenario may not be acted out until her rehabilitation is complete.
These days I always establish that the side gate to our home is closed shut before allowing her to explore the back garden. Once, an open door would be viewed as the chance for her to hurtle out of the space and run like a prisoner set free. Now she strolls calmly out of the door and she will usually return inside the house with one whistle from me or a name call from Catherine and Max. In the early days, we had almost an impossible task of dragging her back in from garden. Then, all she wanted to do was sniff flag stone cracks or check out the height of the walls like she was in the doggy equivalent of the motorbike scene featuring Steve McQueen in the Great Escape.
As the New Year passed we soon went back into the routine. Patty has a morning walk with me before I begin my clinic work. We have walks that take in the striking canal scenery or we do the village circular stroll and a top road walk past sheep grazing in the field. Ducks, basking on the path in the morning sunlight, have to take off into the water but apart from that, Patty takes these healthy strolls in her happy stride.
When Max is home from school, he quickly changes out of his school uniform into jumper and jeans and gives Patty her late afternoon walk. After this exercise, she will take her place and settle for a night in front of the fire.
Perhaps the final break-through with Patty came at the very beginning of this year. On one particularly cold, late January afternoon Max volunteered to long-line Patty on the top field. He set off on what was reported to be the coldest Winter night so far but I thought nothing about it until his frantic bell ringing at the front door. Breathless, he explained that Patty had slipped him after her long-line run by pulling her training lead away from his belt. I walk with her with this lead attached to my belt just in case the leash slips free when she pulls knowing that Patty will run if given the chance.
Max explained that he had been trying to roll up the wet long-line which had frozen rigid in the 5 below zero temperatures. I quickly made the obligatory call to Rachel to ask for her help as Max and I searched as the freezing darkness began to fall.
We headed for her usual hunting ground, the waste land quarry next to the top field. As I stood on the high ridge and surveyed the wasteland - silently praying for a sign of her white fluffy body scurrying around the valley - I began to fear the worst. How could she survive a night outdoors in temperatures failing to minus 8 degrees without shelter?
Max and I then split up. He was instructed to search the street down from our home as I climbed into my car to make a sweep search of the village roads. As I was about to drive away, Rachel banged on the car roof and explained that she was heading into the wasteland for another look.
When I finally caught up with Max again he said he had heard her barking somewhere in the gardens opposite our home but a search revealed nothing. After an hour had passed we headed in the car to journey to the far end of the village to meet up with Rachel on the other side of the wasteland. In the shadows, Rachel announced with disappointment that Patty was nowhere to be seen. Rachel decided to crisscross the wasteland again and we agreed to drive home and find gloves for Max who was shivering in the cold.
You cannot imagine the joy when we arrived outside our home to see Patty sat at the pathway entrance before the steps of our terrace house. She had returned home and a kindly couple were trying to reassure Patty but she would not allow them to take hold of her trailing lead. Max jumped out of the car and scooped her up in his arms as I feverishly called Rachel on her mobile. She began screaming with delight.
At that moment in time Catherine was travelling home from Birmingham by train after a busy day although through my calls she was keeping up with the drama as it unfolded. Once Rachel returned to join up with us, we celebrated Patty’s homecoming.
Patty drank half a dish of water (a sign of the effects of adrenaline) before taking up a warm position in front of the glowing coal fire. Had she returned because of the cold? Was our home now her home? Had she become frightened? Had she run herself into the ground and decided to return for a rest?
Catherine pulled a long bush thorn from her leg later that evening. Had she gone through a hedge or fought her way free? We will never know. All we do know for sure is for the first time Patty returned home after running free. Alongside the wonderful feeling of relief, we all knew her return was incredibly significant.
The last blog?
Patty was definitely one of the best rewards to come out of 2008, a difficult and challenging year from many perspectives. My wife, once a dedicated dog phobic, is now completely cured and adores Patty, who is her first family companion dog. Our just-about-to-be teenage son, Max, got his wish for a living-dog instead of Spot, a soft toy he has cuddled from his earliest infant months. For my part, I now keep a companion animal that confirms to me that almost any dog can be rehabilitated when effort and lots of patience is shown. In addition, I now know just how big a challenge I set my clients as they are guided on how to introduce my Behaviour-modification Program to their dogs. However, most importantly, I genuinely know that my methods are successful with Patty as living evidence that even the most disturbed rescue dog can become secure when given the right structure and boundaries. These lonely and frightened dogs, held sometimes for months inside a rescue centre, can become - as is in our case - the best family friend of all.
Dr David Sands February 2009
A special thanks to Rachel Smith of alpha dog services (firstname.lastname@example.org) for introducing us to her rescue dog, Patty, and for providing tons of backup during the various escape episodes. When I had the dreaded virus and could not walk her in the three weeks in December, Rachel came and did the business. A good soul!