In the season premiere of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (RHOBH), we become familiar with some new, cosmetically-enhanced faces on the housewives scene. Yet, the character who truly steals the show is Kingsley, Kim Richards’ Pit Bull Terrier.
We’ve already been introduced to some of the other canines inhabiting the grand homes of the Beverly Hills housewives in the show’s previous seasons (see The Real Housedogs of Beverly Hills).
At the time that I wrote the above article, Kingsley, had not yet been adopted by Richards. I’m pleased to see the rescued pooch in the home of an enthusiastic human companion.
Unfortunately, Kingsley’s behavior reportedly traumatized Richards’ freshly-surgically altered nose in season three and we witnessed his less-than-controlled antics in the season four premiere. In one scene, Kingsley tore holes in the covers, plus he shows a disregard for Richards’ non-persuasive commands. We also hear Richards discussing the “thousands of dollars of shoes, sunglasses, and personal items” Kingsley has destroyed.
In striving to be a responsible dog owner, Richards recognizes that she has not been the best with training, Kingsley, and calls in a dog trainer to help with his behavior modification.
When David the dog trainer comes to Richards’ home, he is initially greeted by Kingsley exhibiting friendly demeanor. However, the situation quickly turns sour when Kinglsey goes on the attack because David changes his body language, raises his voice, and even seemingly gives Kingsley a swift kick and swat.
Why did this episode happen? It’s not 100% clear (especially considering humans never completely know what is going on in a pet’s head). David explains that Kingsley perceived a breech of the territory he shares with Richards and therefore goes on the offensive.
Although David’s loud verbal response and physical reaction to Kingsley’s aggression comes off extreme, Kingsley’s behavior negatively escalated to a point where he was on the verge of inflecting significant harm on another being (i.e. David).
What would have happened if the situation involved a child, senior citizen, or other pet? Would these individuals have been able to endure trauma of being bitten and come out with only a few punctures or would a more serious or even life threatening injury have occurred? If Kingsley is not put into his place and made to understand that his aggressive behavior is not acceptable, then the scene could easily reoccur and a person or creature would be maimed or killed.
With that said, I don’t advocate training dogs, cats, or other species through the use of negative stimuli (hitting, shocking, etc.). There’s quite a backlash against David’s training techniques and on Richards’ blog: Kim updates us on Kingsley, her kids, and shares what she really thinks about the new wives and Lisa. Richards seems rather shaken up by the incident. Yet, the nature of Kingsley’s hostility towards David reinforces her realization that significant training is needed so Kingsley is better behaved and less likely to harm another person (or pet). Richards expresses her desire to give Pit Bulls a better reputation, but if she doesn’t improve Kingsley's behavior she could potentially have a lawsuit on her hands.
As a test of Richard's ability to control Kingsley, she’s asked to redirect his attention and make him sit in her driveway in the presence of the trainer’s own dog walking on lead in front of the house (seemingly as bait). David’s dog is also a physically imposing Pit Bull, yet he exhibits non-aggressive body language and amiably walks at a heel alongside David. It’s is great to see the example of a breed commonly having a bad public reputation appearing non-threatening. This visual also helps motivate someone (Richards) who has not yet developed sufficient command over her dog to understand that better behavior can be achieved through dedication to training.
Fortunately, by the end of the scene, Richards has gotten Kingsley to sit upon her physical direction and verbal command. She is taught to abandon a command that is not working (pulling on the leash to try to get Kingsley to sit) and instead firmly grasp Kingsley’s scruff (skin between the shoulder blades at the base of the neck) and direct him towards a sitting position. Although such physical redirection may not be necessary on every occasion, when the dog does not respond to a verbal command or another form of non-verbal communication such redirection may be necessary.
In general, if an animal is prone to bad behavior, it is important that the potential for an underlying health condition’s contribution is also considered. In such cases, it’s essential to pursue a physical examination and whatever diagnostics (blood, urine, and fecal testing, x-rays, etc.) are recommended by the overseeing veterinarian. If a pet is cleared of any health concerns that could modify behavior (arthritis pain, periodontal disease, hypothyroidism, cancer, etc.), then a true diagnosis of a behavior problem can be achieved.
If working with a reputable dog trainer is not sufficing to resolve your pet’s behavior problems, then pursue a consultation with a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist. This is a very involved process, but it truly helps teach pet owners to positively handle a pet’s undesirable behaviors. Additionally, a veterinarian or veterinary behavior specialist can prescribe behavior-modifying medication if deemed appropriate for a pet’s particular case.
I hope that Richards continues to develop confidence in providing authoritative direction to Kingsley and that he’s exhibiting desirable responses to Richards’ commands.
Image: Kim Richard's Instagram page