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Hi everyone,

This is my first post and I apologize if it's too long.

I got a maltese puppy 2 months ago. Now she is 4 months and 2 weeks old. I have read about dogs and owning one for years and now I had the chance to get one and I finally did. Everything has been great with potty training and puppy stuff. Because I live in a very dirty city I didn't take her outside until she was 3 months old, until she got the second shot. I have heard so many stories from my friends about parvo and other diseases so I didn't want to take the risk. I have always known how important is puppy socialization and during that time I had a party with 10 people and I had family members visit me and my dog was super friendly with them. I live in a 6 member family and she loves us all. If any of us is gone for 5 minutes and when we come back she goes crazy(good crazy - happy). Anyways lately she will bark at anyone that wants to pet her. I don't know what went wrong and I know I haven't socialized her that much outside but because she was friendly with my guests I didn't think I was doing something wrong. I never knew about the 14 week rule. I took her to the beach and because she's so cute she gets a lot of attention but of course she wouldn't let anyone pet her. She would go in a barking mode until they left or if somebody tried to pet her she tried to bite them. She would go and sniff their feet but the moment they wanted to pet her she'd bark and back off. Frankly this was very embarrassing because it seemed as if I spoiled her or something. I am lookong for a trainer but in my area there are only police dog trainers and I'm pretty sure they don't use positive reinforcement... Will this go away on its own or it is a must to see a trainer?

I am feeling very stressed about it because I am an introvert and I was hoping that getting a dog would help me meet new people more easily... Please share your experiences!

 

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Hello and welcome :)

This problem probably won't just "go away", but it may not require you to hire an expensive trainer.

A few questions - are the people who are trying to pet her leaning over top of her, since she is a smaller dog? Has anyone tried getting down to "her level" (the floor) to see if this elicits a different response? Is she barking at family members, or only strangers?

After you answer these questions, myself and others can probably give you some advice :)
 

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Hello and welcome :)

This problem probably won't just "go away", but it may not require you to hire an expensive trainer.

A few questions - are the people who are trying to pet her leaning over top of her, since she is a smaller dog? Has anyone tried getting down to "her level" (the floor) to see if this elicits a different response? Is she barking at family members, or only strangers?

After you answer these questions, myself and others can probably give you some advice :)
I think it's people that are making her scared because the way they encounter her is put their hand infront of her face in order to pet her on the head as they don't know better. If I am holding her and somebody tries to pet her it gets even worse but I tell people to let her sniff their hand and she does but she barks as soon as they touch her. But people touch other dogs in all ways and they never make a sound...

She doesn't bark at us Ever! She lets us hold her head and lets us do everything to her and doesn't make a sound. My grandma came to visit and she stayed for a week. The first day she would bark at her when she was moving but by the end of the day she was friendly with her.

That's why I don't know whether it's fear or she's being territorial or what's the real reason...
 

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I think it's people that are making her scared because the way they encounter her is put their hand infront of her face in order to pet her on the head as they don't know better. If I am holding her and somebody tries to pet her it gets even worse but I tell people to let her sniff their hand and she does but she barks as soon as they touch her. But people touch other dogs in all ways and they never make a sound...

She doesn't bark at us Ever! She lets us hold her head and lets us do everything to her and doesn't make a sound. My grandma came to visit and she stayed for a week. The first day she would bark at her when she was moving but by the end of the day she was friendly with her.

That's why I don't know whether it's fear or she's being territorial or what's the real reason...
It sounds like perhaps a mix of uncertainty and a bit of territorial behavior, as well.

So, what I would suggest to start with, is to control her greetings with people so that they can all be positive. Every time she growls at someone and they remove their hand, she "wins" and her bad behavior is reinforced.

First thing - don't let her meet new people in your arms. If she's feeling anxious and you're holding her and telling her "it's okay, it's okay" and trying to make the greeting positive, you're actually only reinforcing her anxiety. Telling an anxious dog "it's okay" tells them "it's okay to be anxious, you're doing the right thing by reacting this way".

Instead, get a couple of friends she isn't too familiar with to help you out sometimes. Give them each a few of her favorite treats, and when they 'greet' her, have them do it by kneeling and holding the treat out in their hand. This way they aren't leaning over her or putting their hands in her face in a menacing way. Then she can feel free to comfortably sniff their hand and take a treat. Don't have them try to pet her or force contact upon her, just allow her to sniff and retreat on her own, if she's feeling nervous. This turns a greeting from a stranger into a positive situation instead of a negative one.

Make sure not to push her too far or too fast - don't just do a few positive greetings and then have them try to pet her. It's a build up of positivity that will eventually lead to the intended result. Also, keep in mind that no matter how much you socialize her, she just may not be the kind of dog who will great every stranger with enthusiasm. You can certainly cut down on the unwanted growling, but you can't necessarily train her to greet everyone in an excited manner.

Other members may have other recommendations that would suit her, too. I don't generally deal with smaller dogs, but this is what I would do for a large breed that greets strangers anxiously.
 
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