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Discussion Starter #1
Winnie met 3 members of the family today (niece, nephew and sister in law) and for some reason she would not stop barking and growling at my nephew and was scared to approach him. She was fine with my niece and sister in law, tail wagging and acting like an excited puppy. But with him she was acting timid, tail down, barking and growling in a low gruff. She has never behaved like this with anyone before and has never barked at strangers in the street male or female, young or old. What could have caused her to behave like this? How do I train her out of it? I don't want to this be a problem any time he is around.
 

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If I were in your shoes here's what I would do - Take things slow. Explain to your nephew that winnie is scared and he'll come around eventually.

I would explain to him to let Winnie come to you rather then you going to winnie. I would give your nephew special treats to give winnie.. maybe home cooked chicken or a top favorite food item. Just have him sit on the floor and watch tv or play on his phone.

The idea being treats/food trigger the more calming parasympathetic nervous system (rest& digest) when your puppy is stressed and running on the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). We want to associate nephew with good calming things.

I wouldn't try to force anything. It would be like trying to force polar opposite magnets to touch, not good.

Peggy recommended this book before to me when Basil was having a fearful episode of with sounds going bump in the night.

You would like this book:

474589


I'm sure others will chime in too.
 

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We haven't done a lot of hands on socializing but I anticipate we will see something similar with Oona, who is mostly indifferent to humans outside her household unless they are an old lady cooing at her (<3 <3), a child she'd like to chase, or someone on wheels. Occasionally we encounter someone who she decides is scary or interesting in a tense way if that makes sense, and there is not a firm pattern to it that I can discern. It's more often men than women but the occasional woman will make her nervous too. Maybe it has something to do with their gait, smell or body language. I think we have to take it slow and give the dog time and space to get comfortable. And keeping it light will be important I think, so that she's not picking up more tension from us. So far what we are doing in terms of training is giving strangers who are interested in saying hi treats to offer whenever we have the opportunity. And asking people who want to say hi not to pet her on the head straight away but let her come to them for a sniff. She's gotten to the point that when introducing her to a stranger she goes and sniffs and sometimes takes a pat, and sits expectantly for a treat, and if she doesn't get one from them, turns back to me looking for a treat. I think that's probably a pretty healthy pattern to start with for a shyer young dog - she knows what I expect and that I have her back. This has all been outside though. I think the game may change when people are coming into our home again if she is displaying nervousness around guests.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Just to add a bit more info about the situation today. My niece and nephew are older teenagers not children. My niece and sister in law were standing either side of my nephew so he was in the middle. No one went up to Winnie. They were all standing in the front garden outside my mother in law's house. Winnie has been there lots of times so as soon as we got to the gate she eagerly went in. She passed them all to say a waggy hello to my mother in law standing at the front door. After this she went and said hello to my sister in law and my niece for the first time. They never moved from their spot. It was only Winnie moving up to them. When she came to my my nephew he was doing nothing but just standing there when she started barking at him. He tried crouching down and offering a hand to sniff but he never once tried to pet her. I gave him a biscuit to offer her and she would not take it. I gave her a biscuit which she took off me and then he tried again but she was having none of it. Just barking, low growl and tail down. I felt sorry for him because its the first opportunity he has had to see Winnie in the flesh and he really did nothing to stir her. I have seen her be so friendly with total strangers in the street and letting them stroke her and jump about in excitement all over them so it was really unexpected. Because of lockdown we had to stay outside but I am just worried about what will happen when we are all allowed inside again.
 

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Winnie may be acting this way because of a smell. Does your nephew smoke? Does he secretly smoke? Is there another smell on him that she is reacting to? Is he on any medication? Is he diabetic (high insulin level)

Also, at this age schizophrenia can be beginning. People with schizophrenia have an off putting smell, at least when their boy is rolling into an episode. This would be very unlikely, but some dogs react to the smell.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Winnie may be acting this way because of a smell. Does your nephew smoke? Does he secretly smoke? Is there another smell on him that she is reacting to? Is he on any medication? Is he diabetic (high insulin level)

Also, at this age schizophrenia can be beginning. People with schizophrenia have an off putting smell, at least when their boy is rolling into an episode. This would be very unlikely, but some dogs react to the smell.
Nope none of these. He is part of a rowing team. No smoking, no illnesses. He hates the smell of smoke himself and would move if it came in his direction. We have thought of so many things it could have been but just can't think of anything. We thought it might have been the stripes on his sweatshirt which were brightly coloured but she has seen bright colours before. Maybe she just didn't like what he was wearing.
 

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It's so hard to know what they are reacting to or what associations they may be making. It's also hard when the dog behaves in a way that feels embarrassing or disappointing. But still with any time they're anxious or scared it seems like its important to follow the dog's lead and not push them. If Winnie loves to chew you can also use that as a distraction/stress relief option. When we are visiting with friends outside who have young boys with no impulse control who decide to run past Oona (which normally makes her crazy) if I bring a bully stick for her she's completely absorbed in her own world of chewing, lying by my feet. That way we the humans are able to hang out for a bit and the dog is occupied but safe. I'd love to hear how you manage this stuff going forward because like I said I think we will encounter similar situations with our pandemic puppy.
 

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It's so hard to know what they are reacting to or what associations they may be making. It's also hard when the dog behaves in a way that feels embarrassing or disappointing. But still with any time they're anxious or scared it seems like its important to follow the dog's lead and not push them. If Winnie loves to chew you can also use that as a distraction/stress relief option. When we are visiting with friends outside who have young boys with no impulse control who decide to run past Oona (which normally makes her crazy) if I bring a bully stick for her she's completely absorbed in her own world of chewing, lying by my feet. That way we the humans are able to hang out for a bit and the dog is occupied but safe. I'd love to hear how you manage this stuff going forward because like I said I think we will encounter similar situations with our pandemic puppy.
Maybe I will bring a chew with me when I know he will be there. I could feed Winnie chews all day and she would love it 😀. IF we ever get out of lockdown.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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Was he holding anything? Wearing a hat? Even a hoodie with the hood bunched up around the neck can create a different silhouette. When Peggy was younger, she was much likely to be wary of new shapes if they were backlit. She even spooked at my husband standing in the doorway on more than one occasion.

In situations like that, I think it’s best the person avoid eye contact, ideally angling their body slightly away, and keep all pressure off Winnie. Make sure she’s not cornered and then stand and chat while tossing treats away for her. (Away is key.)

How old is Winnie now? It’s possible she’s going through a fear period.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Was he holding anything? Wearing a hat? Even a hoodie with the hood bunched up around the neck can create a different silhouette. When Peggy was younger, she was much likely to be wary of new shapes if they were backlit. She even spooked at my husband standing in the doorway on more than one occasion.

In situations like that, I think it’s best the person avoid eye contact, ideally angling their body slightly away, and keep all pressure off Winnie. Make sure she’s not cornered and then stand and chat while tossing treats away for her. (Away is key.)

How old is Winnie now? It’s possible she’s going through a fear period.
She has just turned 8 months old. He was wearing a baseball cap but we did ask him to take it off in case she didn't like that but maybe it was too late. She has seen baseball caps before as one of our neighbours wears one when walking his dog.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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She has just turned 8 months old. He was wearing a baseball cap but we did ask him to take it off in case she didn't like that but maybe it was too late. She has seen baseball caps before as one of our neighbours wears one when walking his dog.
Peggy had her worst fear period at 8 months, which involved sudden fearfulness of things she’d previously handled with no issue, such as an appointment with her beloved groomer (who was wise enough to stop mid-groom and let her off the table to be silly and play with a ball).

We just took it easy, kept things mellow and happy, and she passed through it fine. When we returned to finish that grooming appointment, three weeks later, she was back to her old self.

I would not be surprised if it was simply your nephew’s hat that spooked her. The shape of a hat out on a walk is not the same thing as the shape of a hat on a person standing static in front of her. Dogs are funny like that. :)
 

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Was your nephew afraid of Winnie? I think sometimes dogs sense and react adversely to people who fear them.
 
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