Despite being one of the smaller breed of Bulldogs, Henry exudes attitude. It’s no coincidence that this five year old confident Frenchie commands attention wherever he goes. Three years of struttin’ his stuff in the show ring naturally led to romancing the girls for the next two. Retired from his U.S. show and breeding days, Henry found his way to a new home and therefore a totally new life on Canadian soil. His new owner Melanie was enthusiastic to gain an endearing companion dog at home and a fun mascot at her place of business. Sounds wonderful so far, right?
Not having gained full details of Henry’s past, Melanie began seeing unexpected behaviour that was not the most gentlemanly conduct for such a handsome little dude. One would think that prancing around the show ring and being exposed to so many other dogs would produce a certain level of focus, obedience and happy acceptance of his fellow species. In fact, it appeared that the total opposite was true. He would totally lose it on walks – becoming totally unglued as soon as he saw another dog. Thirty-five pounds of dynamo energy conducting the leash, made walking a miserable event. A frenzied level of excitement produced challenges in other areas as well.
The Jollyball became a launching target in Melanie’s hands. Putting it away became an obsessive pace and stare game no matter where she tried to hide it to end the play. The front window was a source of great visual excitement with squirrels and taunting cats jumping within the tree just outside. The wooden shutters were kept closed to eliminate barking and lunging. Greeting people at the front door gave way also to naughty tendencies. Do you think it was any different at Melanie’s workplace? … You guessed right.
It appeared that Henry’s unwanted habits were perhaps a by-product of seclusion and avoidance: A dog that has been exposed to a show ring and a multitude of other dogs, yet never being able to socialize freely with a single one. Perhaps excessive crating and lack of normalized play time with neighboring pets were factors contributing to a frustrated dog that kept the previous owners in a state of avoidance to maintain the peace. This poor guy had limited access to learn how to develop play buddies. So he had none.
Henry represents numerous dogs that become easily mislabeled and therefore seriously misunderstood. Discovering these behavioural tendencies of social aggression would drive most people to use physical punishment out of pure frustration. It would be an understatement to say that Henry is very fortunate to be in the hands of his current owner. Having previously owned a Frenchie, Melanie understands their breed characteristics, the level of patience required and a keen ability to recognize what it takes to follow through diligently in working with the persistent Bulldog type.
Has Henry progressed from our first encounter? I am thrilled to say absolutely! The shutters are left open now and the Jollyball is truly a playful toy rather than an object of prey. Social graces on leash have improved by changing the dynamics of how to reduce excitement and maintain focus. We traded the old collar that triggered aggression and introduced a different one that promoted calm.
By eliminating the tendency to avoid dog confrontations, Melanie has learned how to actively work through challenging daily distractions that in the past caused over-stimulated reactions. This owner’s sense of commitment to overcome someone else’s influence of unhealthy ingrained habits, is a testament to true love for a dog. Although there is still work to be done, happier days co-exist between home and office, as Henry works towards embracing a more social life with his fellow species.