Princess, a 7 year old, female Jack Russell terrier was referred to me for fighting with the 10 year old female spaniel she lived with. This was considered to be territorial behaviour as the fights tended to occur when she was under the bed and the other dog walked passed.
However, on arriving at the house this didn’t seem right. Usually dogs that fight (especially bitches) show a lot of distrust around each other and these two dogs were completely comfortable together – even when competing for my attention. When we all sat down to talk through what had been happening the two dogs jumped up on the sofa and curled up together to sleep.
The more we talked, the more apparent it became that Princess showed anxiety in many situations, which the owner had not fully appreciated. In particular, Princess was very noise phobic and on hearing any loud bangs outside would run back into the house and hide under the bed – for up to three days! She would not come out for food, to go outside and was completely inconsolable. It was in these states that the fights had taken place and rather than it being a territorial issue, it was actually a case of sonophobia, general anxiety and redirected aggression when in a highly aroused state.
We treated the sonophobia and general anxiety. The owner became much more aware of her little dog’s emotional state and was able to work with her to increase confidence in many situations. This was one of those lovely cases where we had very quick positive results – Princess responded so well to behaviour modification and training and the owner reported a much happier, playful and responsive dog. Although we put in management to prevent any recurring fights, the treatment for to reduce the anxious state was so successful that no further incidents occurred.
Hazel Shimmin KCAI(CD), MSc