How Dog School helped my Dixie!!

by Sue Fearney // May 2017

Dixie is my 3 year old Jack Russell. He is cute and very clever but he is also very nervous. We had always had boxers who all died young with cancer. We decided we would go for a smaller breed and my husband wanted a Jack Russell.

Straight away we knew Dixie was different to our other dogs, as he didn’t act like a normally puppy, we thought he was just quiet and shy.

We did all the things you are supposed to do with a puppy such as carry him out wrapped in a blanket, introduced him to people, kids and other dogs.

When he was old enough to go out we enrolled him in a puppy class and the behaviourist who ran the class also mentioned about Dixie being shy, however he was so easy to train and finished top of the class. Dixie moved onto the next class and picked up obedience dog of the year award. Everything was going well.

When he got to just over 5 months I noticed he started hiding behind me if someone showed him attention, however he was fine with other dogs.

Dixie went to a dog minder and got on great with her dogs but she moved abroad and shortly afterwards  I was walking Dixie where I live and we met a lady who I always stopped to talk to with her two spaniels, Dixie barked, growled and lunged at the two dogs, to say I was shocked is an understatement. The lady tried to make an excuse by saying she invaded Dixie's space but I know that wasn't the case.

Dixie’s behaviour got worse to the point were we couldn't go to dog training classes, I couldn't have people to my house, no one but my husband and I could be near him

We sought help from a behaviourist through the vets.

The vet was very clear with us that if we couldn't cope with Dixie the kindest thing would be to put him asleep as he was too nervous to start again with new people.

Not long before we went on holiday the vet had mentioned getting Dixie castrated as it may calm him down, however the behaviourist said it may make him worse.  I done some research and found a new implant from America that was placed under the skin and lasted for about 6 months. In this time we could judge if getting him castrated or not would make a difference.

We followed the vets and behaviourists advice and through this process Dixie was put on medication and he was chemically castrated.

Along with this I got told something that really worked for Dixie. I used a treat that would only ever be used outside to train him. When We were out I had to constantly watch Dixie and see what he was watching. When I saw his body language change which would be him licking his lips I would say 'treat' as soon as he looked at me I would throw the treat on the floor. It took me a week or so to get my timing right but Dixie and I soon got the hang of it

Dixie seemed to be getting more nervous even with the help and advice I was being given.

He would shake; look in rooms as if someone was there.  Although not a known side effect he definitely became more noise sensitive, he would run upstairs for hours at a time because of the noise of a bag of crisps or the opening and closing of the fridge door.  He would be asleep, wake up and go and sit under the table for ages. He also got scared of flies, which never bothered him before

Four more months later and things were still not so good for Dixie, my opinion was that the tablets were making things worse not better.

We made a decision to stop the medication. For some weeks we had a nightmare time with Dixie coming off the medication the castration drug wearing off, it was truly a bad time,  I couldn't see things getting better and cried many times over my special little boy.

I then came across a Dogs Trust advert for one to one training. I contacted them and got an appointment.

I turned up on the day and met Michelle and Luke. We went into the barn and Michelle told me to let Dixie off the lead to explore the environment I must admit I was really nervous but I had to trust Michelle, I let him off the lead and he sniffed around while Michelle carried out an assessment. We left with a plan to desensitise Dixie to the things that worried him and to reward alternative behaviours. I hoped it would help as everything so far had not gone too well.

We continued to visit Michelle and Luke once a week and I could see Dixie was getting used to them and the training was falling into place. It was all positive and we took everything at Dixie’s pace.

We worked at the centre for several sessions and then starting walking out on the streets. For the last few weeks we have started walking with other dogs and Dixie has been great, I'm so proud of him

A few weeks ago dogs trust did their first group walk in a local park, Dixie and I joined them and he was amazing. When we arrived for the walk in the park. Michelle was already there. Dixie saw Michelle and ran to her with his tail wagging, he has never done this to anyone before. When he got near her he lowered his body to the floor as if to say "should I be doing this" but he did and I was thrilled and I cried all the way home, happy tears this time.  He did it again the next time we met and he adores Michelle’s little rescue dog Mabel and cries with excitement when he see’s her now.

During one of our sessions Dixie and Mabel were both off lead and that's the first time I've been able to do this with him.

For the last few months Dixie’s need to be reassured when we are out walking has decreased. We can now pass several people and he maybe worried by 1 of them. He also looks to me if he is uncomfortable so I can help him.

 We know we will never have a “normal dog” but with the support from Michelle and Luke, My hubby and I will continue the work .Dixie has become much more confident and we are going to try him in the next training class. I am so proud of how far he has come.