Poodle Forum banner

1 - 13 of 13 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi everyone, I'm hoping for some insight and maybe suggestions on this- (Daisy is 3 1/2 yo. 7lbs)

A couple nights ago, my dad walked to my desk to get something and Daisy jumped up (he was pretty much right above her at this point) and it looked like she tried to grab/bite his shorts. BUT, I think she was sleeping and he may have just startled her. (Her bite inhibition is good, he said he didn't feel anything besides her paws when she jumped on him, so I dismissed it as being startled from her sleep)

The other evening, just Daisy & I were on a walk. A guy (he lives a couple houses away from me), was also out walking. He bent down, she crouched down and kinda crawled over, sniffed his extended hand. And he tried to pet her, and as usual, she ran away. (This is normal for her, she's shy until she gets to know you) So all he did was stand up, and she darted forward growling/barking..(memory is kinda fuzzy now, maybe it was just growling) and seemingly trying to bite at his shorts/hand..

I was horrified. I've NEVER seen her do this to someone before. We walk through stores and the local shopping mall all the time, passing by crowds and never have a problem. (She's also been cleared to visit hospitals, if that makes a difference) So did he just stand up too fast and that scared her? Or because our walking path is exactly the same majority of the time- 99% because we can't go downhill, it's super dangerous.. is she just claiming this walking path as hers and is acting up when she doesn't feel comfortable? Or is it a combo- she doesn't have her usual pack of buddies with her, so now she thinks she has to take charge and protect me?

Also lately, sometimes when we meet a dog (Daisy is on leash) in my area, she pauses for a bit.. the other dog comes closer, and she'll dart forward- growling at them, barking too when she gets to the end of the leash and they're close. But when I tell her to stop, she'll stop and just ignore them, sometimes kinda hang out away from them and do her own thing. When we're out at the beach (yes I admit, she goes off leash at the dog friendly beaches) we never have a problem, sometimes she'll sniff the other dog, other times she'll give them a ton of space. This growling thing is new... like, within the last half a year I think.. definitely within a year though, and only on leash.

Not sure if this makes a difference, but I run a small doggie daycare & boarding from home (licensed and all that good stuff), so Daisy grew up around other small dogs (4-8 dogs). Some of our guest dogs have terrible behaviors- on the group walks they'd bark excitedly, some would growl, some lunged at the end of their leash when other dogs walk by. Daisy would get influenced by this, and always join in. My neighborhood has no sidewalks, so everyone here makes do as best we can- they're all friendly dogs and we typically all know each other. Due to family obligations I started slowing it down and am in the process of closing my business.

I think this is everything, please let me know what you think. Should I be worried she's becoming fear aggressive? She has never drawn blood or bitten anyone, even babies who tug at her hair. What should I do? How do I boost her confidence around strangers- dogs and men? Sometimes if she's too.. scared? like at the vet, she won't take any treats, but I know she likes them because she'll eat it later.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,473 Posts
I think you are very wise to address this immediately. Ideally I would do two things - first, a full vet check to make sure there is no underlying health issue causing her recent increase in reactivity, and second a consultation with a qualified, experienced behaviourist, who can observe her at first hand and work with you. If this is not possible I would start keeping a diary to identify her triggers - perhaps people looming over her, or generally feeling trapped, as she is happier when off leash? Once you know what causes her to react you can work on desensitising and counter conditioning.

You mention that her usual reaction to meeting people is to shy away and approach cautiously with lots of placating behaviours - this suggests to me that she is generally rather fearful and, as you say, in need of confidence building. One thing that really helped Poppy was Agility - focussed, fun off-leash activity around lots of dogs and people gave her a huge confidence boost.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,395 Posts
Daisy is telling you she's feeling uncomfortable when dogs approach and people, too. Daisy isn't trying to protect you. If she was trying to protect you, she'd be out in front, tail straight up, body raised, and growling. Her posture was crouched. A crouched posture tells you the dog is feeling afraid, not protective. You said this only happens on leash. That makes sense. When a dog is on a leash, they can't run away from things that scare them. The fight or flight instinct get short circuited. They can't flee, so they turn and fight, even if they would rather run away. There are things you can do to help.

The first thing is to make an appointment with your vet to make sure this is a behavior issue and not a physical problem. The second thing to do is stop allowing strangers and other dogs to meet her. Put your hand up in front of you like a traffic cop. "Stop! My dog needs space." Allow no interaction of any kind. You might enjoy stopping to say hi, but Daisy doesn't. The only way to help Daisy feel more comfortable around strangers and other dogs is for her to know that she has a strong protector: you!

Right now, she's trying to be her own protector. Barking and growling makes the scary thing go away. It works! So, she keeps doing it. Let's change the rules. No interaction means her strong protector made the scary thing go away. Since you made the scary thing go away, she has no reason to get worked up.

Instead of taking your normal walk, go to your local park and watch people. Let her just watch them, while you share a hamburger. Point out the things you are seeing. Look at the man with the hat. Two treats for the hat man. See the little boys running? Four treats for running boys. If she won't eat tiny pieces of hamburger, you are too close to the people. Move away and try again. Repeat this often until people are just things in the environment, not something to get upset about.

The third thing to do is play the Look At That game.

Of all the things I've trained Noelle, the Look at That Game is the most useful skill we have. Watch the entire video and follow the instructions. You'll notice Donna takes her dog for a walk in a busy place. Note that she doesn't let stranger stop and say hello. She keeps her dog focused on her. That is what you want. You want your dog to feel calm and in control. Daisy doesn't know how to do that. You'll have to teach her. The good news is, Daisy wants you to teach her. Practice this for a few months. Assuming there isn't a medical problem, she'll work her way through this if you help her. Meet with a vet first before you try the training route. I hope this helps.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thanks!

I think we can probably rule out health issue- we go biannually to the vet, and the most recent visit was 1 1/2 months ago. Also just a general feel over her regularly, everything feels normal- no lumps or anything abnormal.

I will start keeping a diary of this, it certainly doesn't hurt to help me remember these situations better!

So she's fearful.. just wondering why would she move forward to sniff his hand even if she's afraid? Should I take that as a good sign- like she's not completely afraid of men? Or more like her brain is still moving forward, so it won't be a majorly difficult case to fix?

"The fight or flight instinct get short circuited." Even though I always make sure the leash has slack to it? It's not like she's straining to get away..

Hmmm, funnily enough, I'm usually the one who recommends that LAT game to people who ask me about their dogs! Yet I was so worried about this new behavior.. it didn't occur to me. Earlier I was thinking more along the lines of giving them treats, and if she won't take it from them (some strangers- like women, she will), then have them toss it nearby, and let her get it. Guess that's not a good idea then?

And a big yes to agility! I always wanted to take Daisy to agility classes, but with the obligations to the other dogs, and a weird work schedule- day, evening & night shifts all throughout the week.. I didn't even have time to schedule basic human appointments unless I could be squeezed in that week! I just didn't have the time. Now that I'm closing that, and switched jobs, hopefully I can now! So excited for that!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,636 Posts
Yes this behavior would alarm me too especially since you say she is cleared to visit hospitals, is she a certified therapy dog? I would do as click advised and stop allowing people to approach her. I'd tell them to please ignore her as you work to determine why she is exhibiting this behavior. You probably shouldn't take her to a hospital at this point at least until her behavior is stable. Wish I had answers but you will get sound advise on PF.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,901 Posts
She definitely is a fearful dog and she is trying to protect herself. I would not let strangers pet her, and definitely no crouching down on her. If you want strangers to pet her, make sure she feels safe, at the same level, like in your arms, and supervise the the whole thing. If it’s still too much for her, skip it entirely.

Being petted on the head will trigger more fear than under the chin. Strangers should always pet her under your supervision, and under the chin, or on her back, if she will allow.

A trainer or behaviorist would definitely help.

I’ve had dogs that wouldn’t let strangers approach them and I didn’t mind that. They would just stay away, but not bite. If your dog senses she won’t be forced into any contact, she should relax. Biting is a last resort action that shouldn’t happen. She needs to understand that she is allowed to stay away and then the need to bite will decrease.

Good luck with her.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,395 Posts
If you give the people treats, you're bribing your dog to do something she still feels uncomfortable doing right now. Or, to put it more plainly, if Daisy wanted to make a friend, you wouldn't need a treat. And, yes, even with a slack leash, the leash prevents freedom of movement which is why you get different behavior on leash than off.

Work on LAT and give Daisy space. Let greeting people be Daisy's idea. If Daisy doesn't want to make a friend, that's OK. You're more than enough of a friend.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,528 Posts
I agree with Click, but want to add that you can get vests for dogs that say "NERVOUS" or "DO NOT PET" that might help to keep people away from her. I've also heard that instead of having strangers give treats to nervous dogs, it is better if they toss a treat from a distance, so that the dog does not need to approach them. But the dog can still start to associate strangers with good things.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
23,162 Posts
To put a specific name to this behavior in the event you want to look it up more generally. She is showing fear based reactivity. I concur with all of the suggestions made above, most especially under threshold LAT and counter conditioning along with once you make some progress giving treats to people you know who can interact with her according to your directions for how to approach and when to give the treats.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thanks everyone!

Cleared to visit hospitals as in.. our local humane society has an assessment, which I believe (I googled CGC) is essentially the Canine Good Citizen test, but there's a slight change in the requirement of greeting another dog. For us they only had us walk through the lobby area, not greeting and walking with another dog & it's handler (which at the time I could 100% swear if she didn't greet the other dog nicely, then she'd be on the other side of me, away from the dog but still decently behaved). All other requirements sound the same. And our evaluators were both female, which is why Daisy was her super cute cuddly self, they said Daisy passed with flying colors. (We took this assessment before she started showing this growling behavior)

We started the LAT game last night, Daisy caught on really fast. But I'll keep it going at home for a bit until she has it set, then slowly start introducing some distractions.

I never force her to interact with people, and I do tell them she's quite shy. So sometimes they'll continue on their way, other times they'll give it a try- they'll squat down where they stand and hold out a hand.. if she doesn't approach they're fine shrugging it off. I don't think Daisy ever had a scary interaction with another person before. Should I also mention, as I think back.. this behavior started around the same time I started slowing down my business. So she's no longer surrounded by our regular (naughty/very reactive) doggie guests. ...actually, now that I think about it, when I used to take all the dogs out for a walk, Daisy would be confident, tail held high, relaxed, very happy. Now when we're walking alone, same route as always, sometimes I see her tail lowered, she'd be a bit more... alert? of her surroundings. It isn't as bad now.. now that quite some time has passed since we had dogs over. But sometimes I still see it. So I play games with her as we walk, switching directions, telling her commands, praise & treats.. I think it helps? This is good right?

ETA: started looking into our local agility classes.. I'm super sad to say my work schedule most likely won't allow me to attend. But I'm going to reach out to them and see if they'll at least let us come by to watch from time to time.. (They're located at a public school on the weekends)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,473 Posts
Interesting that she is less confident walking alone - I think that may well be at the root of her anxiety. She had a crowd of fellow dogs to watch out for possible danger, and to protect her if anything scary came along, so did not need to worry about it much - then suddenly she was on her own. And from the sound of it the daycare dogs were not very welcoming to other dogs and people so did a good job of keeping them at a distance. If you know people with friendly, relaxed dogs it might be an idea to share walks whenever possible, to give her company and a good example to follow.

Poppy was nervous as a puppy - her biggest fears were people looming over her and pushy dogs. The first was overcome by asking people to crouch down and let her choose whether to come to them, the second by making a safe place between my feet so that I could fend off overenthusiastic canines (or children). As Click has said, knowing that I would always step forward and protect her made all the difference. That, and chicken, games, silly songs, and all the other things you are doing to make walks fun and upbeat.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,473 Posts
It was easy when they were puppies - I just had to convince them it was safer to run to me than away, and then stand with my feet apart. It may be less useful with an older, larger dog, especially on leash - perhaps simpler to just place yourself between the dog and whatever is making her uneasy. It is what confident dogs do to defuse tension, just calmly stepping forward and separating two other dogs, without making any challenging signals. It is a very powerful signal to your dog that you are ready and able to protect her. Walking her so that you are between her and dogs and people, and able to make a wide curve to give her more space can also make a big difference.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JDn4G
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
Top