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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I have recently come into ownership of a very sweet 1 1/2 year old Pomeranian. He is a very very sweet and happy dog but he has come from a(not abusive) somewhat unhappy backround. A little backstory: My sister is one of those "OMG look how cute I have to have that!" type of people so naturally when she saw a picture on the internet of a black pom puppy she had to have one. She had a 2ish year old at the time and than after having him for about 6 months she was pregnant again. So when it came time to have the baby she had some complications and asked me to babysit him for a few days. I agreed and took him home with me for a few days. I work in an office of a business that is family owned so he came to work with me for those few days(I didn't him want to be alone and scared in a place he has never been before) and instantly fell in love with him. After my sister had the baby she kept asking "can you keep him for one more day" until she eventually took him back about a week later. The day I took him home I immediately saw his life. My niece carried him around and treated him as if he were a toy and he would jump on her to play and immediately get yelled at even though he was just going along with what the kid was doing. They never really walked him, just put him in the front yard on a tie out to go to the bathroom a few times a day by himself. I was horrified and felt so bad for him. Fast forward to a month or 2 later and she decided she didn't want him anymore. Not wanting him to go to a bad home my mother took him. She loves dogs! However, she has several big dogs(mastiffs) that would essentially squish him if they got too excited so he had to stay in on room. She brought him to work with us every day and even though he lived with her he still preferred me. I still felt horrible. She didn't have alot of time to spend with him at home because she had to take care of the big dogs and I just thought what a sad life for an energetic little puppy that was. So a few months ago he came to live with me. He is about the happiest dog on earth now. Gets to run around a big house, sleep in bed and chase cats around! So he went from being, essentially, neglected to the king of the world. My only problem is is "aggression" towards other people/animals. When I saw aggression I don't mean he attacks, I mean he just looses him mind and barks and pulls etc. He sees new people every day because he comes to work with me and sees customers. He used to go bananas but I was suggested to try a water bottle to tame him and that has done the trick. The only thing I can't get him to do is to behave outside. If I take him outside and he sees another person and/or dog he looses his mind. He starts barking and pulling and jumping. I have tried a few things and was hoping for some input. I have tried a thundershirt(which hasn't helped at all in any situation), sternly saying "NO" and rewarding him with treats when he stops. But he isn't a huge fan of treats and if I use cheese, which he loves, he usually would rather keep barking. I understand little dogs like to bark and that's fine. But it's a problem. Especially at 6 am when people are sleeping and he goes nuts. It's also a bit embarrassing. I will take him on a run with me sometimes and 8 times out of 10 once we start running he wont stop to bark at passing people. Any advice on curbing this behavior would be greatly appreciated! It just seems to be a little hard to train a dog who has done what ever he wanted his entire life rather than a puppy with a "clean slate". Thank you(and sorry this was so long)
 

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I think to start, you need to find the cause of his behavior. He's either overstimulated and really wants to greet/play with those people, or he's fearful and fear-reactive, and thinks that by barking and making a scene, he can make them go away. A behaviorist can help you make that distinction.

The way you would go about training him would differ depending on the cause. If he's just excited, it would be teaching him to "sit" and/or look at you when the people show up, and he'd get rewarded for doing so, either with treats or occasionally being allowed to greet the person.

If he's fear reactive, the opposite would be the case because he doesn't want to meet those people, he wants them to go away. In that situation, you would need to present treats during the time that the strangers are in view, and then stop the treats when the strangers go away. If you remove him from the situation, you will teach him that his barking works, so you don't want to do that, but instead you want to keep him as calm as possible while rewarding that situation. I think the book "The Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell is incredibly helpful - and it's a short read! Also, look up counter-conditioning.

IF he's reactive, you want to cut out any and all punishment (even the water bottle) - though punishment usually isn't terribly helpful in the long run anyway. Reactive dogs aren't misbehaving to be bad, they are just scared and trying to make the scary thing go away. Punishment doesn't make them feel safer. In some cases, it can make the "bad" behavior (barking, growling, lunging, etc) go away, but that just makes the dog more dangerous as those behaviors are warning signs that the dog is uncomfortable and upset. Take those warnings away and you get a dog that is still uncomfortable and upset, but will "bite without warning" because the warnings have been punished in the past.

Counter conditioning is designed to change the dog's state of mind - instead of seeing people as scary, the dog learns to see people as precursors to yummy treats, in a nutshell.

In both cases, you want to keep him under threshold. That means, you want him to see the stimulus (the person) but you want to be far enough away from it that he doesn't react to it. Eventually, as he responds to training, you can move closer to the person. If you call in a behaviorist, they can pretty easily explain how you'll be able to tell what his threshold is. His body language will be calm, he won't be barking, and he'll be willing to accept treats. If he doesn't take the treats, it's because he's too keyed up.

And, of course, there are some stickies at the top of the forum here that are incredibly helpful, so do check those out.

Good luck with him! His issues are no doubt a combination of poor breeding/genetics and poor socialization, but hopefully much can be overcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you

Thank you! That makes so much sense. I would bet very good money that it is because he is scared. He seems to hide behind me if people get to close. So I will try calming him down and giving him treats when people are around.
 

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Poms are awesome dogs but they will very quickly find out how to leverage situations to their advantage. This can manifest in something that, for lack of a better term, we call 'loopy training'. The dog has found out how to trigger the cue that will get him a reward!

for example:

a) Toby barks at a person passing by the window.
b) My mom issues the 'quiet' command.
c) Toby obeys. My mom rewards him with a scrap of her supper from the table.
d) Toby rushes back to the window and barks again, watching my mom eagerly for the 'quiet' cue!

What you want to do in this case is to only reward the dog for something that does not involve that 'annoying' behavior. If my mom, say, put Toby in a down-stay (rewarding this with the same goodies) beside her so that it never came to barking, where she'd tell him 'quiet' and he'd get a treat... Well, that would become his new default behavior while she eats dinner.

Likewise, if you begin to ask a conflicting behavior of your dog whenever you see a passerby coming (like heeling, eye contact, a sit, etc) that will become his new default behavior when he sees someone on the other side of the road. In his mind, his heeling/sitting/what-have-you is what is causing you to give him the treat.
 

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Tiny aggressive 'problem' dogs VASTLY tend to be terrified of everything. They don't hate people, they're shaking like a leaf and need some security, without getting it they do the only thing they feel they can: act like a big ferocious dog to try to protect themselves. All o Poppy and Kelly's advice is spot-on.

I have had a fearful dog before, though admittedly not as long as some people here. It does take time and effort to get through!

If it turns out it's NOT fear based (But I suspect it is), http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/reactivity-progress-techniques-suggestions-78554/ this thread is a goldmine and is all about reactive dogs.
 

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I agree, this dog is terrified of strangers and strange dogs. The water bottle was a negative reinforcement technique which only taught him that things are worse if he barks, but does nothing to change his feelings, or possibly even makes them worse.

There is a lot of good information in the stickies section about counter-conditioning to strangers and passing dogs, etc. if you want him to be calm and relaxed and happy when strangers appear, this is the way to do it.
 

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I think you've gotten good advice, but wanted to say that you should stop the water-squirting thing right away. If he was a little bit afraid of people before, and tried to let you/them know through his barking (dogs are fairly limited in how they can communicate with us), and got squirted for his trouble, he has learned that his communication attempts are met with unpleasant experiences. If it stopped his barking at people, it's not because he's realized the error of his ways, it's because the entire situation is just so fraught with 'danger' that he has decided to do nothing. It's called "Learned Helplessness"; nothing he's tried works to alleviate his anxiety, so he shuts down. Some dogs, faced with this kind of situation, become extremely aggressive and dangerous.

Outside, on a leash, is a different 'environment' for him; even if he'd learned not to bark at people inside your workplace, this lesson needs to be relearned outside. Dogs don't generalize well, in these situations. If you can do as suggested - keep him under thresh-hold, reward for doing the things you want him to do - you'll increase his confidence and change his feelings about the danger factor of strangers, whether human or canine. Instead of predicting a 'squirt', strangers will predict a game with mom and treats!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Dia, I was given the advice about the water bottle from someone who trains dogs so I figured sure, why not. But after reading what you guys said yesterday it all made sense. I stopped it a bit ago because I was hoping it would help with the outside behavior and I kinda gave up on it because all I received was a wet dog. This dog had almost zero socialization with people and pretty much none at all with other dogs. So it makes sense that he is afraid.
 

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Thanks Dia, I was given the advice about the water bottle from someone who trains dogs so I figured sure, why not. But after reading what you guys said yesterday it all made sense. I stopped it a bit ago because I was hoping it would help with the outside behavior and I kinda gave up on it because all I received was a wet dog. This dog had almost zero socialization with people and pretty much none at all with other dogs. So it makes sense that he is afraid.

Fearful dogs tend to be overwhelming don't they? I know my own fearful 10 lb dog is teaching me a lot about asserting myself around other people who think helping includes, ignoring his obvious signs of discomfort, barking at him, and trying to pet him. He's taught me patience, and that I'm going to be embarrassed at times when my dog is going crazy barking.

Zody, my boy, loves to try and drive people away from the house by the power of his bark. Behold the bark! It gets the scary people to keep walking. To counter that I do a number of things, 1 go check out what he's barking at and let him know it's alright since he's trying to call in reinforcements. 2 if he's getting really bad with the barking then I will cut off his access to the window. I'm also planning on teaching him quiet but I've been slacking on that part of his training.

On walks I'm teaching him that when scary people appear he gets a nice treat. Oh goody, a person is in sight, can I have a treat now? It changes his perception of people and he's slowly learning to view them as a source of good things. He's a work in progress but he barks a lot less then when I first got him and couldn't go a few steps before he spotted someone to bark at.

Everyone is right, while your dog is barking in fear anything you do that is upsetting to him confirms that he was right to be scary since that scary thing is causing bad things to happen. A dog has a warning system before it bites, it starts with barking, then growling, then snarling and snapping, then bite. You can successfully teach a dog to not bark and growl, but then it will go straight to bite. I better not bark, barking is bad, I better not growl growling is bad, but that scary thing is coming towards me, I'm gonna bite it to try and make it go away.

Check out these links, it'll hopefully they'll help you as much as they have helped me with my own dog.

Process of helping fearful dogs | Fearful Dogs On this link there's a lot of information under "Getting Started".

Care for Reactive Dogs That link has a lot of great advice and helped me figure out what I was doing wrong when I was working with my boy. Basically I had my timing wrong and was successfully teaching him to bark at the people, then look back at me for his treat:rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you

Fearful dogs tend to be overwhelming don't they? I know my own fearful 10 lb dog is teaching me a lot about asserting myself around other people who think helping includes, ignoring his obvious signs of discomfort, barking at him, and trying to pet him. He's taught me patience, and that I'm going to be embarrassed at times when my dog is going crazy barking.

Zody, my boy, loves to try and drive people away from the house by the power of his bark. Behold the bark! It gets the scary people to keep walking. To counter that I do a number of things, 1 go check out what he's barking at and let him know it's alright since he's trying to call in reinforcements. 2 if he's getting really bad with the barking then I will cut off his access to the window. I'm also planning on teaching him quiet but I've been slacking on that part of his training.

On walks I'm teaching him that when scary people appear he gets a nice treat. Oh goody, a person is in sight, can I have a treat now? It changes his perception of people and he's slowly learning to view them as a source of good things. He's a work in progress but he barks a lot less then when I first got him and couldn't go a few steps before he spotted someone to bark at.

Everyone is right, while your dog is barking in fear anything you do that is upsetting to him confirms that he was right to be scary since that scary thing is causing bad things to happen. A dog has a warning system before it bites, it starts with barking, then growling, then snarling and snapping, then bite. You can successfully teach a dog to not bark and growl, but then it will go straight to bite. I better not bark, barking is bad, I better not growl growling is bad, but that scary thing is coming towards me, I'm gonna bite it to try and make it go away.

Check out these links, it'll hopefully they'll help you as much as they have helped me with my own dog.

Process of helping fearful dogs | Fearful Dogs On this link there's a lot of information under "Getting Started".

Care for Reactive Dogs That link has a lot of great advice and helped me figure out what I was doing wrong when I was working with my boy. Basically I had my timing wrong and was successfully teaching him to bark at the people, then look back at me for his treat:rolleyes:


Thank you! That was honestly my biggest worry. I was worried that I would accidentally train him to bark with bad timing. But I think I've got it down.
 
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