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Dukes Story: the need for a dog behaviourist

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Hello. My name is Dukes and unknowingly my owners, Laura and Will bought me from a puppy farm in 2009. I had 2 brothers however; because my breeder had so many other bigger litters at the time that we were born and wasn’t there to save my siblings, my mum rolled over and suffocated my brothers before they were even a few weeks old. Although I survived, I was taken away from my mum at just 3 weeks old and given to a Shit Zu to be my surrogate mother. We didn’t get on, so I ended up in a pen on my own surrounded by around 10 other litters of Bulldogs.

Weeks 4-16 are what we call the ‘critical period’. Arguably the most important weeks of a dog’s life to get all the socialisation and habitalization that we need to grow up to become calm and balanced dogs later in life. It was in these weeks that I lacked any form of socialisation, I couldn’t even learn bite control from my mother and siblings who now weren't around. Some of us have a tough start in life and unfortunately for me I missed out on valuable life lessons that 99% of other pups get to learn from their litter. When my new owners came to collect me at 12 weeks, all I knew was a life of frustration, spending my days looking at all the other litters in the front room of my breeders house playing, socialising and learning how to become calm and balanced dogs.

Luckily when I was let out of my pen and bounded over to my new owners, they fell in love with me and paid good money for me to get me out of this puppy farm!

I was scared when I got back to Will and Laura’s house, my new home. When my new brother Kobi (a Pug - you’ll read his story further down) came to greet me, I lunged at him and tried to bite him. All around were new stimuli for me - and aggression was the only way I knew how to act.

My Owners Story: Wills perspective

When my wife and I bought Dukes in 2009, we didn’t really know what we were doing - we were just sent a picture of an 8 week old Bulldog looking all tiny and cute and instantly fell in love with him. Of course we had to buy him!

Our emotions took over our logic when we went to the breeder’s home, a puppy farm. We saw this poor little pup isolated in a pen and wanted to get him out. We never thought about or anticipated what damage the lack of socialisation had done to Dukes. Naively we drove away from the breeders house thinking we had just purchased a little angel to slot perfectly into our lives. How wrong we were...

We were the proud owner of a Pug, and were used to calm and balanced dogs, so it was quite distressing dealing with an aggressive pup, regardless of how small he was at just 12 weeks. When we explained his background to a local dog trainer, they advised us to have him put down because they believed that we would struggle to ever make him a family dog that we could trust. We just couldn’t accept this and although when we went to bed that night worried with what we had bought home (I think my exact words to my wife were ‘have we bought home the devil?’), there was no way we were having him put to sleep.

The need for a dog behaviourist

We found a Dog Behaviourist who was willing to work with us and he showed us everything that we needed to do in and out of the home to ensure that Dukes accepted the big wide world that he had been born into.

I’d be lying if I said things changed overnight because it was far from that. However, we did what we needed to do every day and by the time Dukes was 9 months old, he was a great family dog that everyone loved and could trust being around. Dukes never really accepted dogs that he didn’t know out on walks and used to run at some dogs and headbutt their back leg, but he ended up the loving family dog that we had set out to own.

Dukes was such a character and a great brother to Kobi who spent most of their time together cuddled up on their bed.

Unfortunately, we had to put Dukes to sleep when he was only 5 years old because of a cancerous tumour that he had in his lower spine. The specialist thinks that he was probably born with it and could have been a result of poor genetic breeding from a money hungry puppy farm. Due to where it was situated, they couldn’t operate on him.

He certainly isn’t a dog that we’ll ever forget and I even used this picture of him to create Calm Down Dawg’s logo.

As for puppy farms, most people say that we shouldn’t give them any money so they can’t continue to make money and operate and I totally agree. However, they do operate and they do make money still, lots of money. Can we blame the new owners of these puppies who see some photos online and instantly fall in love? Or would a simple change in the law that breeders have to have a licence to sell dogs help? That way we could check all breeders homes and ensure they’re legit before they have any litters. As well as putting rules and regulations in place to help our dogs get the best start in life.

Whatever way you look at it today it goes on and we buy thousands of pups in the UK from puppy farms all over Europe. It’s not the dogs fault, they didn’t ask for it and when they’re not sold they are put down, left in the street and become stray dogs or end up in rescue homes. At least my wife and I can say that we took a dog from a bad situation and gave him the life that he deserved.

God bless you Dukes x

Kobe’s story

A pretty simple one really - he came from a breeder who knew what they were doing. He’s a very calm and balanced dog because he's always had the right lifestyle ingredients. We have a different relationship with Kobe than we do with Murphy, and Kobe gets away with more because it doesn’t affect his overall behaviour.

Kobe doesn’t need a behaviour modification plan to remain the awesome dog that he is. In fact, I reckon that you could put him into most environments and it wouldn’t affect his overall behaviour.

For this reason, I trained him up to become a therapy dog and give the elderly some well needed companionship. We sometimes wonder if he prefers his time snuggled up on the sofa with them than being at home with us.

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