Question about unsocialized dog

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Question about unsocialized dog

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Old 03-21-2012, 05:52 PM
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Question about unsocialized dog

Hello! I will try and make this as short as possible. A little over a year ago we adopted an 11 week old puppy (total mutt) from a rescue group. She and her litter mates were rescued from a field 2 weeks prior. They were freezing and starving to death. They could never catch the mom. These pups had no human interaction until they were caught.

A few days after we brought her home we noticed she was very fearful. We immediately called a dog behaviorist to assess her. She assured us that if we made a big effort to socialize her for the next month or so, she would be just fine. So we did. You name it, we did it.

2 months later, there was little improvement. We had the dog behaviorist back again so see what else we could do. She pretty much told us that most dogs would have been fine given her age, but our pup would pretty much be an unsocial dog.

It has now been a year and she is no better. I have 4 young boys in the home with lots of friends coming and going. She does not like to be touched or even looked at by any stranger that comes into the house. Anytime someone comes to the door her hair goes up at the back of her neck. That being said, she is not mean and has never bitten someone. When she does get cornered by a stranger she tolerates the petting and when she can, she will escape.

The past several months we have noticed a new behavior. Every time a child comes into the house she has been going up to them and nipping them. On the hands, legs etc. Enough that the children are saying "Ouch your dog bit me." I suspect it is herding behavior, but I'm not certain. If the child then tries to pay attention to her, her tail goes between her legs and she will try to escape.

I'm not sure what to do about this behavior. It is one thing to not like people, but a whole other story when she is hurting kids. Especially when she is very unsocial and despite all of our efforts will most likely be this way the rest of her life. I'm not sure how/if I can train this out of her.

Are there any suggestions or recommendations?

Thank you!
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Old 03-22-2012, 05:40 AM
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This is indeed a tough problem. I would amend the suggestion this is nipping, to also perhaps include this gesture as an attempt by her to get kids to move away from her, as she is clearly not comfortable with kids.

Seems like consulting the behaviorist one more time might be good. Perhaps she needs to be in an adult only home?

It is really good that her basic instinct is to withdrawl from threats... that is her "flight" response is stronger than her "fight" response. It is clear from your description that she is quite stressed by an active household.
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Old 03-22-2012, 06:09 AM
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When she was socializing with other humans or dogs, were the interactions positive? It seems that this dog is fearful, and interactions must be soft or else it would only create more stress and this only worsens her fearful issues towards other people or dogs.

Make sure during socialization sessions, her space is respected and she's the one who is approaching. You need to:
- get her used to and not react to others' presence - no one interacts with her, she can see others at distance, everyone is calm, you can get her attention towards you by doing positive reinforcement with her at the same time to ignore others' presence.
- get her to associate others' presence as a good thing - initially, make sure no one makes eye contact or interacts with her. Have them toss treats from time to time to her. When she approaches and sniffs other people, their movements should be gentle. Then gradually allow more interaction, but stop whenever she seems stressed.

Make sure when the kids visits your house, they are not wild or talking too loud around her, as this can scare her.

Also, with other dogs, it's better if she meets more balanced dogs that are not the "in your face" type that goes right after her for play, or that doesn't have aggression issues. Some dogs are just not playful or interested in other dogs so if you can only get her to not fear other dogs and ignore their presence, then it's already very good.
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Old 03-22-2012, 08:38 AM
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"When she is cornered, she tolerates petting"..... never ever corner a fearful dog. Always leave her an escape with any stranger, and especially children. This is just asking for a bite.

It sounds lime you have done alot of work with her, but honestly some dogs are just not comfortable with people. Especially noisy, active children.

I have one dog who was severely abused, she will never be comfortable in most situations. It took two years for her to be comfortable with me alone. Another year, she is just showing progress towards strangers on HER OWN TERMS. When she can approach and escape.

The treats never worked, she will not dare eat if anyone besides me is around. She will only rarely play when any person is near, though she plays all day with the other dogs. She will crawl on my lap and loves to be petted, but if things get busy she backs away. She is now somewhat comfortable around strangers, if they completely ignore her and I am present.

I would highly suggest keeping your dog away from children before one of those nips gets a face, or escalates into a nasty bite. Continue to work with the dog with only people who are confident, and understand what is going on with the dog.

Fearful dogs can bite, yours is already nipping, and it is completely up to you to prevent a serious bite. It is awesome that you are working with a behaviorist, but just remember not every dog is ok with a group of children, or alot going on.
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Old 03-22-2012, 09:50 AM
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Good comments from Juliemule.
Very good point about not allowing people to corner the dog. This just intensifies her fear.

If you really want to work on her fears, I would suggest reading this book .
I am using some of these techniques with my dogs and they really work.

Amazon.com: Behavior Adjustment Training: Bat for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs (9781617810503): Grisha Srewart: Books Amazon.com: Behavior Adjustment Training: Bat for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs (9781617810503): Grisha Srewart: Books

I am also engaging the help of a local trainer/behaviorist to set up these training sessions.
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Old 03-22-2012, 09:59 AM
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Thank you for your replies. My husband and I are trying to decide if it is time to take her back to the rescue group.
Obviously I would have never chosen a dog with this many issues given the nature of our loud household.
My big issue is that I simply cannot control everyone who approaches her, with friends coming and going all the time. She is social enough to want to know who is coming and going and will go up to people, but does not want anyone to touch or look at her.
We have tried clicker training her and we have tried treating her when strangers come over. Sometimes she will take a treat, but it is not uncommon for her to refuse the treat and go right to her crate instead. She seems to know what we are trying to do and she doesn't like it.
My option is to keep her in the backyard a lot, which she hates and will whimper at the door constantly to come in or to keep her crated. None of these ideas I like and she wouldn't like it either.
We have been hesitant to take her back to the rescue because I don't know how adoptable she would be given how fearful she is. I also know she would be terrified to be surrounded by strangers back at the rescue.
What I do know is that she would be much happier in a quiet household. She would also absolutely love another dog. I have noticed that when she is around other "normal" dogs she takes queues from that dog and does so much better.
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Old 03-22-2012, 10:57 AM
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If you decide to rehome her, maybe you can Foster rather than returning hee to the shelter until a quieter home is found. That way she wouldn't regress near as much.

And I do feel many fearful dogs take comfort in other confident dogs. They associate more with others rather than humans. Some, not all of course.
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Old 03-22-2012, 11:03 PM
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I have a now 2 year old dog who was found at approximately 5 1/2 weeks old along the side of a rural road. As a puppy she played well with my then 9 year old Boston Terrier and was socialized around my Boston as well as my sister's chi-weenie mix and 5 year old shihtzu. I started working on training her from day 1. She took to the basic obedience but struggled with walking on a leash and was showing signs of agression to strangers, other dogs, cats, etc. I was so fortunate to have found a trainer who started working with her at approx 11 months of age. I knew if I tried to rehome her, chances were she would be put down. What I've learned is her aggression was fear based, (alot is based on her genetics) and that she doesn't have alot of confidence. It has been a long intense year of training, socializing, and just learning to understand her needs and her communication through body signals, etc. She still has issues around other dogs at times, but does so well in structured settings. She is amazing at her distractions class and can do a 30 minute sit/stay with a dozen other dogs and random people walking around.
I would look for another trainer/behaviorist if possible. The time and expense I have put in is so well worth it and with every improvement I see in my fur-baby I know it has been a great decision in finding the right trainer to get her to where she is today.
Best of luck, I know exactly what you are going through because my dog demonstrated so many of the behaviors you have described.
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