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Submissive puppy?

435 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Ele
We have a 5 months Staffy x rescue puppy. She has been with us for about two months and a half. She was scared of many things at the beginning (leaving the house, other dogs, the car) but with time and slow exposure she got much better. She is good in the house and can stay alone for a few hours without showing distress. However she is still quite timid and often has her tail tucked in between her legs which makes her look miserable and I often wonder if she is happy. She tucks her tail when she eats (unless the eating is within a play session, e.g., I hide kibble in the garden and she has to find it), every time she in the kitchen and we are cooking (she is food obsessed), when we get to new places and often in other occasions. Our house gets really cold and I wonder if that makes it worse (I am planning to get her a jumper). She sometimes pees when new people come into the house and when passing next to our cat in the garden. The cat and her most of the time do their own things but the cat would slap at her if she gets too close. She wags the tail at him and I think she would like to play, but he has no intention. My question is: why does she tuck her tail so much and what can we do to make her more comfortable? I just worry she is not happy ! I have never punished her for peeing of course and in general we try to use positive reinforcements with everything. It does happen that we get frustrated at times but we try to control our reactions because otherwise with frustration she just stops listening altogether, so that doesn't help anyone. And what can I do with the cat, is the submissive pee a normal behaviour? I hope that doesn't mean she is scared of him, but she sometimes would not go pass him if he is blocking the passage. She would not pee in the house with him but only if we are in the garden and usually we are playing and the cat hangs around. Thanks in advance!
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She tucks her tail or pees b/c she is not yet confident about the world, and everything new is scary.

You said she's ok with eating during play. If you had feed her, I imagine that she doesn't tuck her tail. If you sit with her while she eats, and may pet her while she is eating - does she like that, does she stiffen, does she relax, or does her tail tuck even more. [My rescue needed to be rewarded by having me nearby and petting him, b/c he wasn't used to eating alone.]

As far as further confidence, do you have any friends that have a Lab or Pit puppy that would play with her, so she can learn a little less fear? When she is 6 mos, is there any way to get her into group puppy classes?

As far as the cat, I think she IS scared of the cat. The cat pops her, apparently at random when the pup is near ... from the perspective of the pup. I don't think you can do much about the cat, without a little help. Again, if you have friends that have a dog and a cat, where the cat is dog-friendly and plays with dogs, that might help her confidence around cats.
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Hi Hanksimon,

Many thanks for your reply! I have tried to pet her and tell her she is a good girl when she eats, it doesn't seem to make a big difference, sometimes she wags the tail a little. But I have not really tried consistently, so I can't give it a go! Thanks for the suggestion.

RE other dogs, this is actually what I did when we got her! I was really concerned about her not being able to socialise in the critical window (also given the COVID19 restrictions, people at the park were staying far away!) so I organised play dates with friends, and now she is mostly good! She sometimes takes a little to warm up with new dogs (she does a combo of tail tucking and wagging) but then she engages, and she is very confident with dogs she knows. So I think this is going okay? Considering that we started with her yelping like crazy when new dogs were approaching!

Unfortunately I don't have any friends with dog-friendly cats! There were cats at the shelter were she was, but some of them were also a bit weird. I think my cat was not socialise properly (we found him outside the doorstep that he was very little, and could not find his litter) and doesn't know how to behave around other animals. Most of the time they are fine, and they would be chilling in the same room in their respective spots, but if I am playing with her in the garden and she is running around he sometimes would kind of chase her and pop at her and she would do the little wee. Maybe I should lock him inside when I am playing with her outside?

She also stiff her tail at the start of each walk, even though I think she likes walking and going to the park and we do it every day! She used to stop a lot and pull back, but now she walks fine... and she usually has a good time at the park, meaning that she plays a lot with her friends! Am I right to just keep going with exposing her?

It is just a little discouraging at times when she looks a little miserable and I don't know why and whether I am doing the right thing.
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At 5 mos, she has a lot to learn. Also, she may be teething, loosing her baby teeth and growing in her adult teeth, so her gums may be sore.

When you pet her while she's eating, try to do it more consistently and she may wag her tail more. Also, if you can get some small treats (try to 'hide' them where she won't see or expect them), while you're petting her, when she wags her tail, praise her, or just talk to her, AND slip her a small treat. She may learn to associate wagging her tail with a good feeling and the treat.

The organized playdates sound like they're going OK. Keep it up as consistently as possible, and the more that she experiences the World as a safe place, the more confident that she'll grow. Pay attention to when she does playbows and with which situations ... and try to increase the number of those situations.

Unless the cat is 'traumatizing' her, as long as his bullying is mild, I think it's better to continue to let them interact. Maybe as she gets bigger and more confident, she will grow less intimidated...

Keep up the good work, it takes patience. It takes most pups about 3 mos just to believe that they are in a predictable situation. And, it could take her a year or two to mature and mellow out, if she has predictable and consistent experiences. Oddly, one way to help is to expose her to lots of different situations, so that she learns to be comfortable with novelty, rather than surprised or scared in new situations. Consistency is important, but you can consistently expose her to novel situations.
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This all makes sense! Thanks so much, it is really reassuring to know that we are working in the right direction and she may just need more time to (hopefully) build up her confidence more. It is interesting because it seems to me that when you don't have a dog you hear all about boisterous puppies with zoomies and less about the fact that they can be scared and avoidant. But of course it makes sense that some pups could be more than others and some not at all. Thanks again!
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