Steve rang me as a last resort re escalating aggression problems with his 3 year old Rottweiler male, Rocko. Not only was Rocko aggressive to other dogs, he had become aggressive towards the family’s
young children.

Rocko In a worrying development, Rocko had nipped one of their daughters on the arm whilst he was unsupervised for a very short time.

Steve and and his wife Tina realise that this was a serious mistake. Leaving any dog,
let alone a large Rottweiler, alone with three young children (all under the age of 5), for however short a period is a recipe for trouble.

Fortunately, on this occasion the injury was not serious – bruising on the child’s arm.

Steve had also been in the habit of taking his dog to work with him until recently, but he had bitten Steve’s boss on two occasions one of which led to hospital treatment.

This is no way to endear yourself to your boss! Rocko now had to be left at home and Steve’s wife Tina
felt unable to cope with him.
As a result, Rocko was spending long hours of the
day shut away due to the risk to the children whilst Steve was at work.

On attending to assess Rocko, he initially gave every appearance of being a dominant, highly prey-driven dog. The family home was adjacent to fields, and Rocko would pace up and down the perimeter, eye-balling the sheep and watching their every move. Rocko was also alert to every move of the children, any sudden movement triggering excessive prey-drive from him.

Tina was clearly emotional about the risk to her children, as was Steve. Steve was ready to make the ultimate decision with regard to Rocko’s future if it was felt that he couldn’t be rehabilitated.
Observing Steve with the dog, it was clear that here was a dog which was trainable.
He did not show the traits of a dominant dog at all. He walked perfectly to heel on the lead and the remnants of obedience basics were still there, despite the fact that pressure of work commitments had long ago seen the end of any training activity.

Rocko saw every dog as a potential threat, not just those he perceived to be of equal rank to him. Rocko was also found to be amenable to aversion therapies, another clue to his overall psychological make-up.

As a trainer, it would have been easy for me to have advised destruction of the dog.
I feel sure that Steve and Tina would have agreed. But here was a dog which due to changes in its owners lifestyle had endured major changes in its own life, which it had found difficult to cope with. Rocko had changed from a friendly family dog, into an unpredictable nightmare due largely to the fact that over a period of time, Steve had been able to spend less and less time with him due to work

Rocko was only being formally exercised once a week and was spending most of his day shut away behind a closed door in Steve’s absence. Without any structured exercise he had literally gone stir-crazy.

Steve, with his wife Tina’s cautious support wanted to make one final effort to rehabilitate Rocko.
A full re-bonding programme was devised, together with a change of diet and a major change in his
exercise programme. Steve was committed to getting up early in the morning before work to give Rocko a serious work-out before breakfast and similar exercise, grooming and play/training in the evening.

Instead of shutting Rocko away at all times when the children were in the lounge, Steve would allow him
in when the children were in quiet mode, for instance watching tv, but only under strict supervision by Steve. The aim of this was to nullify the effect of Rocko’s prey-drive by not allowing him in the vicinity of the children whilst they were active.
After a couple of days, Steve reported that there had been a definite change in Rocko’s overall demeanour and attitude, but this is a project which will take time and serious committment,not only to rehabilitate
Rocko, but also in re-building Tina’s shattered confidence in him. They are aware that they have to remain consistent, committed and vigilant if they are to make a success of this programme.

Watch this space for updates on his progress.

Thank you so much for your help and advice at the weekend.
Tina and I have done exactly as you said in your action plan. I am now dragging myself out of bed early in the morning to take Rocko out for a good walk in the morning before work, and I take himout again in the evenings.

Tina and I are also spending time in the garden after the children have gone to bed, doing some obedience and play, which is going well. Rocko definitely seems to be calming down and I am determined to do my best for my dog, because I realise that he has got like this through no fault of his own.” Steve.