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Discussion Starter #1
Hi!

I have a 7.5 month old white german shepherd / yellow lab mix named Bran, who has developed the odd habit of barking - at very specific men. He's extremely well trained and very smart, I practice control and leadership with him all the time, and correct any unwanted behaviours as they arise - but when it comes to these 'specific' men, he doesn't seem to listen to me at all, and it's the only time he does that.

He does bark to alert me that someone is at the door - but he only barks once and then sits back away from the door to wait for me to check, which is what I trained him to do, instead of training him not to bark entirely (which I felt was unnecessary) - but this was something that came about after he developed the habit...

At about 5 months he began to get wary around men - but not all men. I'm not sure what the connection to him is, or why he only does it for some and not others, but he starts with a low, almost silent 'woof' and backs away, then gets louder the longer they stay - it seems more uncertain than anything - not afraid but not sure what to do either, but when I correct him to make it clear he should not be barking at these people, it's like I'm not doing anything at all. If they get closer to him, he tries to run and avoid them.

On off-leash walks, if I pass a man going the other direction and don't grab him and lead him past, he backs up and runs back the way we came trying to avoid the man - but again this is only SOME of the time, and never for women.

I'm confused, because I react the same to all people I see when I'm with my dog - calm, assertive and in command; a habit I've been forming on purpose so that I could better raise my puppy. Am I still not there? Is he, some how, reacting to me negatively reacting to these men without realizing it? Or is this issue something on his end that I can address directly?

Any feed back or help with this is greatly appreciated!
 

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It is good that you are staying calm in these situations. Any stress/anxiety you bring into this only adds to his. Who knows why he is doing this. It would be nice to know, but it's not strictly necessary to fix the situation.

Work with him while "under threshold" (that is, before he gets upset). Make these men the best thing in his life. He sees one of these men, say from twenty feet away and is calm, give him a treat and praise. If twenty feet is too close and he begins to "woof", back up until he is comfortable. This is not a fast process, but the distance should grow smaller and smaller. The key is to not rush the situation. You cannot throw a dog in a sink or swim situation like you might to a person :)

Maybe there is something off about these men? Or something subtle about them is freaking him out-skin color, a cane, sunglasses, unusual clothes (anything different from what you normal wear). It could be dozens of things.

Long story short: Stay calm, let the dog set the pace, build positive associations with the "scary" thing.

Best of luck! I'm sure the more experienced members will hop on board. We would like cute puppy pictures as payment ;)

P.S. I know puppies go through "fear periods" but I'm not sure exactly when, or if it is relevant to your situation. Just a thought.
 

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I agree with CrimsonAccent, and this is about the time for a fear cycle. In addition to that suggestion, you can also give the men some treats and have them toss the treat to Bran, but over his head, two or three times. Then, a few in front of Bran.. never staring at Bran. You don't have to have all men do this, just one or two friends that Bran reacts to.

You may never know what triggers this. MY dog is 12 yo and starting to develop a twinge of arthritis. He used to hop on the bed, but stopped... I assumed the arthritis had progressed. So, I picked him up and put him on the bed a few times. And, then he started jumping again. After watching how he had reacted, and sometimes reacts, I guess that he had tried to jump and got a sharp pain... taking that as a punishment, assuming no more jumping. I'm guessing, b/c I wasn't around and I don't hit him ... Once I made it clear that it is OK for him to get on the bed, he continues his previous ways of jumping.

Maybe your dog heard some random noise or watched you stub your toe ... and he associated with these men ...
 

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Hi!

I have a 7.5 month old white german shepherd / yellow lab mix named Bran, who has developed the odd habit of barking - at very specific men. He's extremely well trained and very smart, I practice control and leadership with him all the time, and correct any unwanted behaviours as they arise - but when it comes to these 'specific' men, he doesn't seem to listen to me at all, and it's the only time he does that.
How are you training, exactly? If you're using dominance based techniques, and using "leash pops" or a choke chain, you may have inadvertantly caused this problem. 5.5 months is right in the fear period puppies go through. During this period, bad experiences are greatly exaggerated in the puppy's mind and really stick, too. If you popped the leash right while a man was walking by, the dog may have associated the punishment with the man, and because it happened during a fear period, he's now terrified of all men.

I highly recommend the advice given to regarding using treats to help him learn a new association. Please learn to clicker train from here on out. Punishment based training can have long lasting, unexpected consequences that it's best to avoid. Check out kikopup on Youtube. She's great at clicker training, and her results speak for themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the advice - I'll try the treat training while were out whenever we run into those few men who spawn this reaction. This began just after his sixth month, but it might still be associated with that fear cycle - it's close enough to the period that something might have triggered him that I wasn't aware of.

As for the type of training; we use a mixture of praise/positive reinforcement and treat training, with a prong-collar for walks, and I used the touch-correction for correcting negative behaviours not associated with the leash (I.E. touch + TSST sound, like cesar milan). I practice a loose lead walk, and have since we started puppy training at three months - it IS possible that I inadvertently gave him a correction at just the wrong moment while walking him during a fear cycle - but as I said he is only afraid of certain men with some trigger I'm not able to figure out, and not all men.

I should also add that he seems to be fine at PetSmart (where I work) and never runs from the men there at all - the only place I've never seen him react that way, except in our apartment... Perhaps it's the unfamiliar environment that is contributing to whatever about these men triggers him?

Either way, I'll look into the clicker training (something I was considering doing to help with some of the more complex training I intend to start doing) and start carrying treats around for when we run into these trigger-men.
 
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