Dogs are sensitive creatures. Just like people, if they have been hurt or abused they sometimes need help from a professional to move past it. So lets start with what a dog behaviourist actually does.
Dog behaviourist definition on Wikipedia as per a google search:
“A dog behaviourist is a person who works in modifying or changing behaviour in dogs. They can be experienced dog handlers, who have developed their experience over many years of hands-on experience, or have formal training up to degree level.”
Before my family adopted Bella, an English Mastiff, we had never had any experience with dog behaviourists. We adopted Bella when she was four. We noticed fairly quickly she had issues with strangers coming into our home. Men were especially a pain point of hers. When we took her into our fenced backyard we noticed when someone was walking on they other side of the fence, she would bark and grab one of her toys and tear it up aggressively. We couldn’t figure out why she did this, but we wanted to look into it. That’s when we decided to take her to a dog behaviouralist.
Sammy Mar is a dog behaviourist that works with Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue. We took Bella to her and she observed Bella’s behaviour and here’s what she told us.
Basically Bella was being protective over us. Whenever she saw a stranger on the other side of the fence, she would project her anger onto her toys. Bella was telling that stranger “hey, stay away because I don’t know you and I don’t trust you.”
This made a lot of sense to us. She barks every time someone comes into our home. She barks like crazy. Once she realizes its one of us, her family, she’ll stop barking. If she sees someone she doesn’t recognize she’ll keep barking until one of us tells her it’s okay and she can stop protecting us. It’s like she’s warning us of potential danger.
Mar told us a way to stop her from being so aggressive. When Bella runs to the fence to bark at strangers, we need to put ourselves physically between her and the fence. I did this and it worked. Bella will see me standing there and try to move around me, but I’ll move with her. I’ll give her a pet and try to soothe her, and she’ll go back to playing around in the yard with Maggie.
We still have some work to do with Bella, bur she has come a long way from when we adopted her two year ago.