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Discussion Starter #1
Hamilton is 5 months old now. If you come to my home, Hamilton will be your best friend ever. If you're coming to rob me, he'll show you where the valuables are kept. He whuffs a little if he hears someone coming, then when they actually get to the door, he wags his tail like a mad man and zooms all over the house. He's crazy friendly in other situations he's familiar with as well, like at his play groups or his classes. I'm finding, however, that in strange situations he is much more reserved. For example, this afternoon we went to the pet store and to the park. At the pet store one of the employees crouched down to pet him, and Hamilton went over for a sniff, then turned and walked away before he could be pet. At the park he doesn't really want to walk, so I've taken to just doing what he wants, which is usually sitting on a bench, people and dog watching. He will sulk until a person walks by, and then perk up, and wag his tail. Some people he'll let pet him, other people he'll turn away when they reach for him. It's like he's happy to see them until the want to pet him. We met three people with dogs at the park who were very friendly and all the dogs were playing together, he took water from one woman, stood and waited for treats from another, got pets from one guy, but then this 3 y/o walked over and was really toddler rough with one of the dogs, then went for Hamilton who just backed the heck out of there and I picked him up. He doesn't ever growl or snarl or show teeth, and he's never tried to bite anyone who was trying to pet him. I try to ask people who ask to pet him to crouch down, because he does better when people are on his level.

I plan on just continuing to do what I'm doing, taking him out and having him meet people - but how concerned should I be at his reaction to strangers outside of his familiar places? He's never shown signs of aggression, just avoidance, but should I be concerned about him biting people? It's almost like he's super overstimulated and focused on so much stuff going on around him he doesn't want to also be touched.
 

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He sounds like a normal dog to me. Besides golden retrievers I don't know many dogs who will go up to every person they meet for petting. Petting from strangers isn't really something most dogs enjoy, especially if the stranger is looming over them. Of course there will always be some dogs who are more "people oriented" who wants attention from every person on the street but I don't think they're the norm. He doesn't sound shy or aggressive at all, just displaying the appropriate response to move away from something he isn't comfortable with. As long as no one corners him and forces attention on him I don't think it would be a problem. Our dog loves people, and if he is in an offleash park will go up to new people for a brief petting but he doesn't want it from every person he meets. Not sure what his criteria for friendly people is but he definitely likes "dog people" more than others. Sometimes he'll run up and lean into someone for a pet and then after they pet him once he'll turn and go off to do something else.

Oh and if he wants to move away you should always let him do that, don't let people force attention. He's giving a clear signal that he isn't interested by moving away. If too many people force attention on him it could build to aggression in the future if he feels like people aren't listening to his signals.
 

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There is a sign I saw once that is very true - "If my dog does not like you, then I probably won't either".
Your dog is behaving perfectly normal and you do not have anything to worry about.

Keep doing what you are doing.

Sometimes dogs take a little while to warm to certain people. Not sure if its the way these people approach you and the dog or if its a chemical thing - bad odour or whatever.
 

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If he's avoiding, you're fine. Dogs come in basically two temperaments: those who fight and those who flight. Can you push a flighter to biting? Yes, probably, but it takes a lot, you really have to push it.

Just do what you're doing, socializing, and let him decide what attention he wants. If a stranger petting him is not what he wants, don't push it. "oh, he's feeling shy right now" and end the interaction. Praise and treat when he chooses to interact.

Pit bulls, btw, are another breed generally in love with the world. "Never meets a stranger" is the breed standard for temperament.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
When we meet other people and he doesn't want to socialize with them, they say things like "Oh, he's not friendly?" or say how shy or timid he is, so I guess that's been reinforcing for me that he should be up in everyone's face. Usually if they'll come down to his level, he'll walk over, sniff, walk away, and then sometimes come bounding back all excited, or otherwise just get distracted by something else. When he's off leash in groups, at play group or meetups, he is a "laportunist" - any lap he finds he'll jump in!
 
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