Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hello

My wife and I purchased a MALE 8 week old cross Maltese Shitzu November 2019 when he was 8 weeks old. We named him Darcy.

We enrolled him in a puppy school at our local vet early December for about an hour each Tuesday evening for 4 or 5 weeks and there were 4 other puppies also enrolled. Apart from being interested in the other puppies he went well and learned many 'skills' such as 'sit', 'drop' etc etc. One of the learning sessions for for socialising with the other puppies via treats placed on the floor so they came together. He was ok there.
We had him neutered at 6 months old.
He is now becoming a very loving but often mischievous dog.

Apart from being extremely friendly to our two daughters and the much larger dog owned by one daughter he is EXTREMELY unsociable to other people both in our house and outside on walks and also a bit aggressive to other dogs.
He barks and barks at them and keeps his distance from them but still strains on his leash.
We want him to be friendly with other people especially those who we invite into our house.
He loves going on walks but is always looking around him in case there is someone or dog in the area.

We cannot find any listed dog dog training schools in our area (Blue Mountains NSW Australia) and seek some guidance and help.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,671 Posts
He sounds like a classic nervous/fearful dog. It's very normal for these kinds of behaviors to become more pronounced as a dog grows up. The barking and straining is very typical of a fearful leashed dog as well - they have a fight or flight response, but because they're leashed, they don't feel like 'flight' is an option, so they instead try to scare the other dog (or whatever's scaring them) away.

I wouldn't expect a dog who is naturally nervous and less social to become friendly, even with skilled behavior modification. Playing with strange dogs in a dog park or allowing strange humans to pick him up, for example, are often unrealistic goals. I'd instead aim to help him be comfortable around strange dogs and people - to lessen his overall fear and to avoid putting him in situations that push his boundaries - even if that doesn't involve directly interacting with them much.

I'd start with Dr. Patricia McConnell's booklet the Cautious Canine. She's an excellent resource and has worked many years as a dog behaviorist. I find her writing to be very straightforward and digestible, and she explains why dogs with these issues behave the way they do as well as going over strategies to help them. It's also available as an ebook, so no waiting for it to ship if you can't find it locally.

If you're looking for something with a little more of a class structure, I did find a trainer that is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) that does online classes, and is at least in your time zone here: Online Classes – Dog Solutions. Not as convenient as someone local, but might be an option! Or they may know somewhere more local to you if you contact them to ask - the dog trainer/behaviorist world tends to be pretty small that way.

Another option would be the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, which offers courses and webinars entirely online throughout the year - and not just about sports or sports-related topics. I've heard a lot of great things about this class that will run starting August 1st: Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - BH110: Dealing with the Bogeyman - Helping Fearful Reactive and Stressed Dogs called "Dealing with the Bogeyman" that specifically addresses fear and reactivity. You can audit it - which means you can follow along and read the forum posts but not participate - or try to get one of the limited gold or silver spots, which allows you to submit a certain number of videos and get feedback from the instructor, as well as participate on the forums (though they come at a higher price point, of course).

And we can try to help with specific issues here, of course! But remember most of us (myself included) aren't professionals, and may have conflicting viewpoints, so I figured I'd give you some resources from people who have the experience and certifications to back up their training/behavior advice first.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for that advice. We wondered if our dog was exhibiting signs of fear.
We will look into each suggestion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Sorry meant to also advise that our dog shows no fear (does not bark or try to avoid) of any of the staff at our vet and wonder if that is because he is very familiar with the premises as we went to puppy school in the same building when he was 3 months old.
Also he is now accepting of our friend who lives in a street nearby after visiting her (our friend) a few times on her property (at first he kept his distance and barked but now will approach her).
Lastly he loves our two daughters as mentioned and also one has a dog MUCH larger than him and he just wants to play with that dog and has been the same ever since they first met in our house when he was about 4 months old.
So he does have a few humans he accepts and one dog.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,671 Posts
That's definitely good! It's pretty normal for adult dogs to prefer to socialize with familiar people and dogs, and become a bit aloof or indifferent to strange people and dogs as they get older, and that's going to be more pronounced when there's fear involved. Sounds like you did a good job getting him used tot he vet and he's more comfortable in that location and with those people than other settings.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks
It's just trying to teach him not to pull on his leash and bark when people or dogs he doesn't know come into his vision.
We have tried moving to the other side of the road and also facing him in the opposite direction and also rewarding him with a small treat when he is not as aggressive with no apparent improvement. We were just wondering if anyone had any more tips. We would love to be able to take him on a walk and be friendly or at least bot interested in people and dogs like we see other dogs do. And this is especially true of people who we invite into our house. Maybe we should ask if strangers in the house offer him a treat to come close and stop barking?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,671 Posts
Yup, that's called 'reactivity' or specifically 'leash reactivity' in dog lingo. My older boy struggles with it too (frustration in his case, rather than fear, but training/management is very similar). I'll link to this sticky for more resources - it's older so some of the links might not work, but it's got a good list.

But some good basics. Work on really solid cues that require the dog to focus on you. Something like 'watch me', which may or may not include a sit. Work on training a cue that means 'U-turn' on a leash, and maybe a positive interrupter, which is a sound or word that you've taught the dog means something good is always coming. Practice these a lot, as much as you can in different environments, until they become automatic. These skills will help your boy be able to disengage from his triggers, rather than fixating them and amping himself up. Here's a video that explains positive interrupters better than I can:


Watch his body language. Usually, by the time dogs are barking and lunging, they're too upset to do much learning. At that point it's all management and getting distance between the dog and trigger so he can calm down. Before that point, you might see 'tall dog' behavior, where the dog slows down and fixates on a target, ears pricked, movements stiff instead of loose and happy. This is when you want to be encouraging disengagement with the above cues and other positive means (funny noises, patting your leg, whatever gets attention), before the dog passes that threshold and goes full flight or fight. A great illustration of the progression:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/25/2a/08/252a085e09b036f72794d47c27e93079.jpg

With fearful dogs you can reward with distance from the trigger! So as soon as you can get your dog's attention, enthusiastically jog/run him back from the scary thing a few feet, and reward with food. When he learns that you'll support him in getting away from scary situations, he'll be more willing to be closer to people without freaking out. Any disengagement from the trigger or interaction with you gets big rewards, even if he's still doing some barking or lunging. You're trying to change his emotional state here, which will then impact his behavior, so you don't have to worry about 'rewarding' the unwanted behavior with treats. The treats will help him learn that people and dogs are positive things, and the aggressive behavior you're seeing will naturally reduce as he becomes calmer and more interested in earning treats than making the scary things go away.

For in the home, I'd actually suggest guests drop treats as they're walking by (and away) from him, toss treats over to him, or toss treats over him so he can move away from them to get rewarded. This should all be done without staring or fussing - essentially the guests ignore him and act like he's not there, but magically produce treats he does NOT have to approach them to get. Offering a dog food to come closer works for puppies and confident adult dogs, but it's a bad idea with fearful dogs. They'll often force themselves to leave their comfort zone if the treat is good enough, but then the treat is gone and they find themselves way too close to the scary person, with no food buffer. Worst case scenario, people get bit this way. More often, the dog becomes very stressed and conflicted, and can even start seeing the treat as punishing because it predicts such a scary/uncomfortable interaction.

Basically, let the dog have all the control when it comes to approaching guests in the house, reduce pressure as much as possible (staring etc.), and when your guest dispenses treats, try to make sure the dog either doesn't have to move to get them, or is encouraged to move away.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for your advice and tips. Our dog does have some commands he usually follows sit, drop etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,671 Posts
Sounds like a good start! Practice those refocusing behaviors until the dog does them practically without thinking - that way the training and muscle memory have an easier time overriding the fixation on their trigger.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Well I thought that our puppy had become a bit more socialiable (but that was only when outside the house on walks
) but yesterday our grandson came to stay with us for a few days and our dog just wants to bark and growl when he sees him and will not go anywhere near him. It's as if our dog is scared of our grandson.
I feel that covid-19 has something to do with this as since the shutdowns started in March our dog has NOT had any socialising with other people. Our 2 daughters are the only people who enter our house who he doesn't bark at and is friendly with but he met them when he was a small puppy.
I so want him to not be so unsociable with friends and relations who visit us. Our previous dog did not have this problem.
What can we do to fix this behavior?
Thanks
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,359 Posts
Honestly, most dogs do NOT want to greet other dogs or people outside on leash. We CREATE fear reactivity by encouraging or allowing this. Get between your dog and other dogs and DO NOT allow greeting. If someone wants to pet your dog the answer is NO. They want a dog to pet they can go get their own dog.

Socializing is NOT allowing every person touch your dog or other dogs to meet your dog. Socialization is such a bad term.. it really should be called "environmentalization" or something.. What Socialization REALLY does is get your dog out and around in various environments so the dog learns those environmental things are just things and to not worry.

Every time you let a stranger come and pet your dog they bend over the dog (which dogs find threatening) and pet the dog.. and usually the dog is out in front of you.. you are inviting your dog to become defensive which is the basis for reactivity. You ever see puppies, ears back, paws frantically up on a person's leg tail wagging furiously but held a bit down? That puppy is APPEASING the person.. and is really quite afraid and is doing all it can to say, "Don't hurt me please don't hurt me..." WHY would you put a baby dog in that situation? Same with a baby puppy and an adult dog.. a LOT of appeasing behavior by the puppy.

Take a step back and advocate for your dog. Do not let strangers touch your dog and do not allow other dogs to come up to your dog. If someone comes to visit that the dog does not regularly see, put the dog up. Your dog does not NEED to engage with all the guests and strangers who come to your house.

Let me put this a bit differently. You have a little dog and people are large and unfamiliar people are both large and a bit scary. Why would you scare your dog?
In my case I have very large dogs and a breed that scares some people. If one of my dogs were to lay a tooth on a person even in play I would have a dead dog. People come to my house? I put the dogs up.. and these dog are highly trained. If I put my dog is a Platz, he/she will stay in a platz. The problem is if someone visits and I say "ignore the dogs and do not touch them" about 80% of those people won't listen and will go over and bend over and touch that dog.. or stare at the dog and say stupid cutsey things to the dog.. both of which the dog may view as aggressive actions.. I take no chances and EVERYONE is happier and my DOGS are safer if I just put them up.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for your reply and advice.
Happily our dog (10 months old) became friendly with out grandson on the third day. We had taken both down to the river and walked for about 40 minutes having our grandson sit in the front seat of the car on the way so that the dog didn't have to sit next to him (and possibly growl and carry on). During the walk (on a load) our dog started to walk next to our grandson and then allowed him to pat him and on the way home they sat next to each other on the back seat and our dog actually cuddled up to our grandson.
We are wondering if our dog is hyper sensitive to any one he doesn't know. We remembered that a few months ago when lying on the floor next to my feet and resting if I moved my feet even 1/2 of an inch he would immediately jump up looking startled - he did this all the time. He often will growl or bark if he sees a reflection on our glass interiors door move and also if he sees other dogs on our tv (he runs up to the tv and stands on his back legs and growls or barks).
Maybe he needs medication. We will talk with our vet.
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Top