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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've been trying for the last few months to get Leia to play with other dogs. We go to parks where lots of people take their dogs to play but she has no interest.

I do feel like we're making progress. At first she seemed really nervous and would not leave my side even an inch, the poor thing peed herself the first time we went when the pack came over to greet us. By the 3rd time she didn't seem to be quite so nervous and would go up to about 3 ft away from me but still would not play with the other dogs. Which is where we are now. She doesn't seem bothered by the other dogs, she lets me pet them and even give them a treat but won't engage with any of them in play.

At home she is very playful with our other dog but that hasn't yet translated to others. I'm trying not to force it. If she just wants to hang out by my side at the park, that's fine. She just turned 6 months old and she is definitely showing other signs of reaching the 'lets explore' age, although much more muted than other dogs I've owned.

The other day we went to a different park than the normal one, there were tons of dogs, most off leash. As usual Leia did not interact with the others until one guy came by where we were hanging out with a Lab/Dachshund puppy on a leash and for the first time she seemed like she wanted to play, tail wagging and mutual sniffing. It was tentative but it was play, I was thrilled. Just after this another dog came over, this one with no owner in sight (he came from the other side of the park) and I was hopeful they'd play so I got out my phone to film.

In the end they didn't play, Leia watched him, and when he approached her, she snapped at him and then chased him off. In the video though I thought I saw a hint of a tail wag when at the end.

Here's the video (sorry I couldn't always keep both subjects in the frame), I'm hoping that some of you guys can give your input on the body language of both dogs and what it shows.

 

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She didn't want him in her space. I saw no sign that she wanted anything to do with him. What I saw was a dog who was not comfortable, looking around for approaching dogs, keeping her eye on the dog that approached, using distance increasing behavior to keep the other dog away. Note the tucked tail after the dog's second approach as she chased him off.

The other dog seemed to be soliciting play and luckily he read her signals loud and clear. He tried once more but it was obvious she wanted no part of an interaction with him.

She didn't look like she was enjoying the park, even when the other dog wasn't in her bubble. I know this was just a few minutes of the experience and not necessarily how she looks all the time when at the park.
 

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I don't see play, if that's what you're looking for. From what I see (which is limited), she is very tense throughout that entire clip. Around the 1:47 mark, when the dog finally leaves, she does two things that I think you are mistaking for a tail wag: she relaxes muscles that have been tight from her head to her tail, and she exhales. It is a "phew," not a "yay."

Her skin is pretty floppy, so her muscles aren't particularly evident, but if you look at a frame like the 0.07 mark, you can see how tensely her back leg muscles are clenched. Her stance at that point shows a dog with back legs held tensely underneath her and the base of her tail clamped, suggesting a dog who is frightened. Similarly, around the 25 second mark, she takes several very slow and tentative steps and sits with her tail clamped tightly (both signs of fear inhibition and/or discomfort). She rarely takes her attention from the other dog, her movements continue to be slow-and-stiff (and I realize, given her breed/type, that "slow" may be a fairly normal descriptor, but the stiffness and limited range of motion, except when lunging to drive the other dog away, suggest a very nervous puppy). Her mouth stays tightly clenched (although, from the way her ears move around 1:50, she might relax her jaw slightly then...can't see from this angle) and her ears are mostly pinned to her head (they are floppy, but the base is tightly pinned except for a few ear flicks, which I'm assuming are in response to environmental sounds...they do relax when the other dog starts sniffing the ground). At various points when you film her from side-on, it is apparent that she is holding her breath and/or taking very shallow breaths, thus the noticeable exhalation around 1:47.

For contrast, the other dog moves freely and with the body relaxed from the neck back. His mouth is usually open and relaxed, his tail hangs calmly or waves loosely. After she lunges at him, he does a few calming/displacement things, like standing sideways for her, sniffing the ground, avoiding eye contact, which are all very polite ways to deescalate aggression or send calming messages. As he approaches (an a politely oblique angle) around 1:15, he is relaxed until Leia starts to move toward him, at which point it looks like the corners of his mouth start to pull back slightly, and he slows down and turns to make a wider circle, both signs that her movements toward him are not viewed as play. Her second lunge is more serious than the first, and she succeeds in chasing him off.

When she walks to make sure he's really gone this time, she moves more freely than she has at any other time throughout the video. She takes her first deep breath around 1:47, her butt muscles relax, and as she turns back, it looks like her face is more relaxed too (hard to see, but her jowls are hanging loose and the corners of her mouth are not as tightly clamped). She heaves another big sigh around 1:51, and looks to be sitting rolled slightly onto one hip (a puppy thing, but also more likely to accompany slight relaxation). She still does not look particularly relaxed or comfortable in this environment, but not as distressed as she was when the other dog was close.

I'm no pro, but I'd say the video shows a puppy who is experiencing fear, and not the least bit playful. I think the other dog approaches playfully, sends appropriate calming signals when she responds by lunging, approaches again, and takes the second (bigger) no seriously. He's doing his best to entice her to relax and play, she isn't. She relaxes when he leaves, to some extent...though I have to assume she's still not as relaxed and expressive as she would be if she were home.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the analysis @Grabby and @SnackRat

I agree with the nervousness and believe me that its a lot better than it used to be.

I'm not sure what to do about it though other than to keep going. She won't take treats when other dogs or people get to close and if they don't she's perfectly relaxed.

We just got back from a park tonight, there were a bunch of dogs and there was a lot of the same. No interest in any interaction. Didn't chase dogs off in the same way, and would tolerate them coming up to me and me petting them, but any attempt to sniff her butt would get a quick rebuke.

People earn the same reaction, disinterest and skepticism, if the person stays long enough like several of the people I talked to at the park tonight, she will eventually relax and lie down.

It makes me sad a little that she doesn't want to make friends but I can't force her too. She doesn't hesitate to enter the park although she clearly recognizes it and in general she is never happier than when we go for our walks.
 

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My Rottie cross has similar if not the same reaction to other dogs, no interest what so ever, only keen on staying by my side and playing with his ball, he will also snap at other dogs too
 

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Discussion Starter #6
though I have to assume she's still not as relaxed and expressive as she would be if she were home.
You know I was think about this part of your post this morning as I was watching them through the window.

First of all she's not very expressive. If I go to sit down on her couch to do some work with her she comes bounding over tail wagging happiest as can be and jumps straight up on the couch and the procedes to go to sleep. She does not like being away from us and clearly yearns to be next to us but, she doesn't don't really do expressive.

Anyway, as I was looking out the window to our front drive where she was with Simba I noticed the exact same posture as in the video. Sitting right next to the fence (which she can see through), tail tightly curled, erect posture, ear flicks, tracking every person walking by with her eyes. No barking, no fence fighting but tense.

Again though, just like she loves going on walks, she seems to prefer the front yard to the back (we often keep them separated because she eats slowly and Simba eats everything).
 

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When I say "expressive," I mean expressing voluntary behaviors. Like, if you counted the number of actions she takes in this video, the number would be very low. That is typical of scared dogs -- at the most extreme end of it, I have met dogs who shut down and literally are so frozen by fear that they cannot make any voluntary movement, so that the only "behaviors" that their bodies are engaged in are involuntary/automatic (breathing, drooling, peeing, etc.). Preferring to sleep, or not being particularly demonstrative in her affections, aren't quite the same thing. I totally get how big molosser-type dogs can be harder to read and kind of stoic, but every dog (or person, for that matter) has some range of relaxed, voluntary behaviors that they can engage in when comfortable, and gradually lose the ability to do so as fear takes over.

Not being able to eat treats (that she would be able to eat in another situation) is a sign of fear. It's also a good indicator that you are working too close to the people/dogs that are scaring her. If you want to make progress on her fear, I would stop letting her have overwhelming interactions like these, and instead work on building her confidence through repeated counter-conditioning trials that happen when the dogs/people are further away. Which I realize is easier said than done...the Care for Reactive Dogs gives better instructions than I can manage here, but finding controlled situations and developing that skill set would still be up to you.

It also seems reasonable to me that a fila might not be a good candidate for dog parks or for making quick friends with strange people. Isn't that more or less the breed standard? I think fear reduction is a quality of life issue: it's our responsibility, as pet owners, to try to make sure that the amount of fear our dogs experience is as minimal as we can (meaning, we teach them to feel confident and safe to the degree that we are able, and do not expose them to situations that we know they cannot handle yet). But I don't think making friends with strange dogs is necessary for most dogs...having a few close friends, sure, but not every dog needs to be a social butterfly.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
@Snackrat

take a look at this video

This was taken the day after I made this thread, when I said I was looking out the window. Here she is at home, behind a gate, with Simba. A very safe and comfortable situation for her and she does hold her tail a little looser than in the first video but it also seems like she is showing a lot of similar postures to that video as well.

The video was cut short because Simba obviously heard or smelled me and came up the stairs and she followed but I've seen her sit for hours with her tail wrapped to the side like that visually tracking the people who walk by.

that a fila might not be a good candidate for dog parks or for making quick friends with strange people. Isn't that more or less the breed standard?
The idea isn't quick friends with strange people, just socialization with strange people and strange dogs. I had hoped that she would play with the other dogs so she could get exercise but she is clearly not interested in that.

The FCI standard calls for aloofness but "When alert, its expression should reflect determination conveyed by a firm, penetrating look."
 
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