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Unpredictable Patterdale

We have had our Patterdale Terrier from a puppy, and she has always been slightly nervous. To help her, we’ve done all the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme awards, which weren’t easy, as she barks when she is nervous and excited, although we did our best. Out on walks we always praise her when she calmly walks past another dog, but we never know quite how she’s going to react. She particularly hates two other terriers who live near us.  We have followed the advice given by our dog trainer, but we never know from walk to walk how she’s going to be. Will she ever become the confident little dog we’re aiming for, or should we just accept that she is always going to have issues?

Kirsten Dillon advises...

I would say 99 per cent of my behaviour work is with dogs such as yours. In my honest opinion, you probably may never reach the level of confidence you would choose, but you can certainly get a dog that is not upset by the general vicinity of other dogs, which is the thing that really matters here.

It is important to set your expectations, starting with general acceptance at a distance – rather than actual interaction – to begin with. Training is great. There is always a place for training, but the fact that she barked throughout her classes tells me she was over her coping threshold, and could possibly have benefited from a quieter type of class, or indeed one-to-one sessions.

I suggest the following reads for you. Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt contains a wonderful protocol called ‘Look at that’, which will help you instantly on your walks. I would also recommend you look at Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0: New Practical Techniques for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs by Grisha Stewart. These are not easy exercises for the inexperienced, so I strongly suggest you enlist the help of a professional behaviourist, or at the very least a trainer who is experienced with both protocols.

In the meantime, avoid close contact with all dogs; let her see the other dogs at a distance she can cope with, and assume she will dislike them all until you have had a chance to obtain some coaching from a professional.