A few years ago, I was hired to help with a male Vizsla that was fearful of strangers. When I first evaluated the dog, yes, he would react when he saw someone he didn’t know. His defensive zone was approximately 30 yards. Within that zone, he would start barking. The dog was also afraid of the husband, and would bark at him in the home. What was the cause? Let me explain…
I went to work on the fearfulness, working first with the wife as the handler. Over time, the dog stopped reacting to strangers, but still kept reacting to the husband. I had assigned homework for him regarding the dog. But, I came to find out that he didn’t like the dog, didn’t do any of the homework, and would give hostile looks and body language to the dog in the home. The man was provoking him to being afraid, and the man liked that the dog was afraid of him.
I had several conversations with both of them regarding the husband’s relationship with the dog, to no avail. He was a jerk. I came to figure out he was provoking the dog as a way of fighting with his wife. Their marriage was falling apart, and he was using the dog to get back at her. By harming the dog, he could harm and bully her. I spoke privately to her about this, and she admitted that I was right.
I couldn’t fix this one completely. You can’t get a dog to like someone who won’t be nice to the dog. It was animal abuse. We ended the lessons at that point. She was very discouraged and upset with her husband, and felt very guilty about what was happening to her dog. She had covered up for him at the first, not letting me know what the husband was doing, and I only found out over time.
The lesson? You can’t fix crazy people. I hope she got away from him, and took the dog with her.