Dog expert shares reason Nicola Bulley pet was running back and forth when she disappeared

A dog expert has shared why the pet spaniel of missing mum Nicola Bulley was running back and forth after she vanished. Ms Bulley”s spaniel was likely linked to distress rather than anything to do with the breed specifically, the dog behaviour expert added.

Ms Bulley vanished while walking her dog by the river in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27. Her phone was found on a bench by the waterside and had recently connected to a work call. Her dog Willow was running loose.

Animal behaviour and training consultant Nina Bondarenko told the Daily Star Willow displayed “flushing behaviour, adding: “They’re bred for hunt and retrieve, and they’re bred to flush out game, so they have to be very amenable to being handled at a distance, they have to be responsive at a distance. They were never bred as guard dogs. Some of the bigger hunt and retrieve breeds were but these were never, they were always just jolly, intense little working dogs, flushing out game.”

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Nina said “the dog sounds like it wasn’t sure what to do” and likely stayed near a “familiar smell” by the bench. Kimberly Freeman, from dog training business City Sit Stay, added: “I know there’s some speculation as to the dog being in distress in the water. They’re generally bred to swim quite well, a lot of dogs can swim naturally but spaniels are especially good swimmers, given what they’re raised to do and bred to do.

“Because they are so loyal to their owners, if there was some kind of distress going on they would be very panicked and probably try and help as best they can. If they weren’t able to, there would be a lot of pacing around, vocalising as well, and if there were other people around they would try to get that person’s attention.”

Jose Ros, from London Puppy Classes, said: “The dog – by genetics – will enjoy going from bush to bush flushing birds, that’s what they enjoy doing most. As for where the dog sits in this equation, if the dog was found pacing up and down, probably the dog was just anxious as the owner disappeared.

“Unfortunately, the dog is not able to tell the police what happened.” He added whether or not a dog would jump into a body of water after its owner “would depend on the individual” and “on whether the dog was trained” to do so.

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