When a two-year-old Chihuahua named Bobby arrived at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in London, he was so badly behaved that the rescue quickly ran out of options on how to reform the “bad-boy” dog.
The little dog bit everyone, and he was so fiercely aggressive that his chances of ever being adopted were growing slimmer with each passing day. That is until Battersea contacted Lizzie’s Barn Sanctuary where the dog had an amazing transformation that saved the young dog’s life.
Bobby is just one of thousands of “handbag” dogs increasingly being abandoned at shelters throughout Britain. Smaller breed dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas are being given up at an alarming rate after their owners neglect to train their dog and instead treat them as a “fashion accessory”.
Celebrities such as Paris Hilton have caused a fad for the so-called “handbag” dogs in recent years. Unfortunately, the babying of these dogs has caused many to develop unwanted and unhealthy behavioral issues. The dogs are literally being spoiled rotten.
For Bobby, he developed signs of severe possession over his owner. He would snap and bark at anyone who came near her. His temper became so severe his owner could no longer cope, and covered in bite marks, she handed him over to Battersea.
Bobby’s owner admitted to babying him and carrying him around. As result, he refused to obey any commands, he did not know how to play or socialize with people or with other dogs and he would not stop biting.
The experts at Battersea attempts to rehabilitate Bobby were met with snarls and bites and he resisted all the normal rehabilitation practices. Two foster parents and a Chihuahua rescue centre later, Bobby’s behavior did not improve. Even the vets treating him wore protective gloves up to their armpits to avoid his biting.
Ali Taylor, Battersea’s head of canine welfare and training, asked, “Who was going to take a naughty Chihuahua? We just didn’t know.” She knew Bobby was an unusual case. He had not been allowed to be a dog and had been treated like a child had resulted in him becoming “one mixed up kid.” She described, “He was quite fearful and a lot of his behaviours were stresses and fears. He didn’t know how to react as a canine. It was very difficult but you couldn’t blame him.”
Even though they could not blame him, Bobby was so aggressive that they were almost giving up hope and thought the unhappy dog may have to be put down. One staff member finally suggested calling Fionna Ashman who runs Lizzie’s Barn Sanctuary in Carmarthenshire Whales. With 30 years experience, her independent animal sanctuary has helped many dogs. It would be Bobby’s last chance.
Fionna agreed to take in the misbehaving dog and when he arrived she right away recognized his problems. She knew Bobby had a deficit in canine skills. She also noted that he thought he was leader of the pack. So Fionna began to slowly establish rules with Bobby. For the first week with her, it was one-on-one training to help him build confidence and a strong relationship with her.
“Before, if someone told him off he would attack because he wasn’t prepared to be told off. Instead of telling him off I withdrew and because he desperately wanted to be with someone he learned to behave,” Fionna said.
She would never punish him, but she got him to obey by withdrawing attention when he misbehaved and rewarding good behavior. He never bit her, because she could anticipate when he was becoming stressed.
Now many months later, he is a dog transformed. He has canine friends among the dogs at the sanctuary and greets people and other dogs happily.
Says Fionna, “Bobby just needed a completely new environment to blossom. He was lethal when we got him, but now he’s lovely and ready for a new home.” She adds, “And he doesn’t bite anymore. Bobby is a great little dog now. When I had a cold last week he came under the blanket with me on the sofa. I adore him.”