Scooter the Maltese that bites dog on his walks

My boyfriend and I adopted a male Maltese who was left behind when his expatriate owners returned to their home country in late May.  The Maltese was estimated by the dog rescuers to be approximately five to six years old and is sterilized.  His name is Scooter.

Other than my boyfriend and myself, we have a helper in the apartment and a 9-year old male Westie whom we adopted three years ago.

During the first week when Scooter was with us, his temperament was generally alright.  Other than being a little playful with our Westie, he was quite easy to handle and he seemed to be settling into his new home well.  We did notice he was quite jittery and jumpy during this time period with us but we thought it was normal as he had just come into a new environment which is unfamiliar to him.  However, after about more than two weeks with us, we started to notice a change in Scooter’s behaviour…

Whenever we walked Scooter (together with our Westie) around our estate, he would bark non-stop whenever he sees other dogs.  No matter how we tried to reprimand him and/or tugging at his leash, it would take a long time before he would stop.  As we know most of the dog owners in our estate as they and their dogs play with our Westie often, we were very dismayed when we tried to let Scooter socialize with these other dogs and Scooter became aggressive towards them.  He did not only bark but even tried to bite some of them.  The situation became so bad that our helper was afraid to continue to walk Scooter and our neighbourly dog owners had started to shun us.

At this point in time (Scooter has been with us for more than three weeks), we knew we had to solve the problem quickly as we did not want Scooter’s aggressive behaviour to escalate further but we were at a loss as to what to do.  I contacted one of the volunteers (from the dog rescuers’ group where I adopted Scooter from) and asked for her advice.  She was very surprised that Scooter’s behaviour had become so aggressive and she advised us to engage a dog trainer to help.  She gave me Ezra’s contact number and I called him right away and made an appointment for the upcoming Sunday morning.

Ezra (a dog behaviourist as introduced over the phone) came to our apartment that Sunday late morning.  He was quick to assess our dogs’ behaviour as he entered our door (especially Scooter).  We spent the first session with Ezra filling him with information about Scooter and how his behaviour had changed dramatically over the past three weeks or so.  Ezra also spent about an hour outdoors with us teaching us the right way to discipline and walk Scooter and our Westie together.  He taught us to use a proper leash instead of harness as dogs tend to pull and lunge with harnesses.  We encountered one of our neighbour’s Westie that afternoon and Ezra was able to see and observe Scooter’s aggressive behaviour towards that Westie.  He firmly alleviated Scooter’s aggressiveness and showed us the right way to stop Scooter’s barking and attempts to bite other dogs.  After the outdoor training, we went back to our apartment where Ezra explained in detail his assessment of Scooter’s change in behaviour.  Through his explanation, we came to understand a lot of things which we were not aware of about dog behaviour.  Ezra also explained to us about setting boundaries for our dogs within the apartment.  The whole first session took about 2.5 hours.  We scheduled the second appointment for the following Friday.

During the week before the next scheduled appointment with Ezra, we tried what Ezra had taught us during the first session and we were very happy that Scooter’s behaviour gradually changed for the better!  Not only did the training session help Scooter, we even noticed a good change in our Westie’s style of walking.  Scooter also started to become more calm and relaxed as compared to the initial weeks when he was quite skittish.

For the second session, Ezra brought along one of his dogs to help in teaching Scooter the right way to behave around other dogs.  It was an exhilarating experience as we witnessed how Scooter really learnt to “respect” another dog.  After just a couple of minutes of meeting Ezra’s dog, Scooter was alright to walk alongside with him and behaved well!

After about 45 mins outdoors, we went back to our apartment where Ezra observed how we set the boundaries to our dogs whilst preparing their dinner.  During this time, Ezra spent another hour teaching us more about dog behaviour and how we continue our firm discipline with Scooter.

I am a dog lover and I have had dogs almost all my life, but it is through Ezra’s sessions that I have learnt so much about dogs things which I never would have known.  We are very happy with how everything turned out for Scooter as we did not want to give him up.  Ezra was definitely a big help and just after two sessions with our dogs and us, we have all learnt so much.  Now, my helper feels more confident in walking both of our dogs and Scooter is much better behaved.  Our Westie has also learnt the meaning of walking in packs.  At home, both of them have also learnt their “boundaries” and now we all just look forward to going home to two happy dogs and bringing them out for walks with more confidence.

I personally would like to thank Ezra for being so patient and spending the time he did to teach and share with us the right way of handling and disciplining dogs, their behaviour, the meanings behind their every movement and gesture and to show them how to respect and know who their leaders are.  Although our two sessions have ended, Ezra continues to keep in touch with us by texting us to find out updates about our dogs.

I would strongly recommend anyone who may (or may not) be facing negative issues with their pet dogs to seek help from someone like Ezra as an option to resolving the problems.  Instead of contemplating the idea of giving up their pets, seeking professional help from the right person will not only assist the dog owners but also lead to happier pets!

Christine J

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