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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
About five months ago, I adopted a dog for the first time in my adult life. She is a rescue dog (Brittany mixed with other unknown), currently about 11 months old (estimated birth date April 15, 2015 based on puppy shots administered at end of May 2015).

At first she didn't even know her name (didn't respond to the name the rescue gave her). I taught her a new name but it took a while for her to learn it.

Since adopting her, I've taken her on regular walks (every day unless weather is bad), done 12 weeks of basic dog training (dog classes at the local pet store), gotten a variety of dog toys for play, etc. I work at home so I'm around most days. I did have to put her in dog boarding about three weeks after adopting her when sent on a week-long business trip.

So I'm wondering - does my dog just "need space" sometimes, or is she not bonding with me?

She doesn't often come up to me wanting to be petted (though she'll stay right by my side if I have food / treats). Sometimes when I approach she just flops on her side (this is often her response if I was out of the house for a short time - about 2-3 hours). If I pet her when she does the "flop on side" thing she will brace against me with front paws.

She'll want to stay outside for hours at a time and not come back in unless it gets dark or cold (or lured with a treat :) ). If I'm gone longer (more like 8-10 hours) she is much more enthusiastic about my return and gets jumpy and licky. She's more enthusiastic about meeting new people (and their dogs) on walks than when I return home (kind of like "oh, *that* guy again...").

Just in the last few weeks she has started "alert barking" if she notices unfamiliar sounds outside. Before she was a really quiet dog and never barked at anything / anyone. I think that before I adopted her she may have been a "repressed" dog. She has a few strange fears, like being reluctant to cross wooden foot bridges on walks (she's since beat this one). Yesterday she acted afraid of a snowman that some kids had built in the park (tail tucked between legs and refusing to approach it).

If she's just a somewhat independent dog, that's OK, but I'm just trying to understand if something went wrong with the rehoming / bonding / training process, or if I'm just over-analyzing or misreading the signals.
 

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Some dogs are less attention-seeking/affectionate then others and the rehoming process may have complicated things further.

I adopted a human-fearful dog 6 months ago. I also work from home, do training with her, and am her primary care giver. When I come home from trips (I often travel for work for 2-3 day stints) I get lowered head, subdued tail wags, and submissive licks. Usually, I have to go to her, she won't meet me at the door. She's scared of random things, but luckily works through her fears quickly with positive reinforcement and exposure. She only really approaches me looking for pets/affection if she wants something (99% of the time it's her wanting a walk).

However I know that she's bonded with me. She likes to be where I am, although if she knows that I'm going to be sitting at my desk for a while then she'll go lie down on her bed in a different room. If she hears me moving around she comes to check on what's up. She likes training sessions and seems to enjoy working with me and learning new tricks. Every now and then on walks she'll come up to me for a pet (most of our walks are through off-leash forested areas). When off-leash, she doesn't like to be out of sight of me for more then a few seconds. When scared of something on a leashed-walk she'll hide behind me. At night she prefers to sleep in the bedroom rather then on her own bed in the living area.

She will never be a in-your-face affectionate dog. However, I have learned her signs and mannerisms enough to know when she's saying "you're my person" to me in her own way. I also have come to realize that she trusts me and looks to me for security, which to me is a major sign of bonding.

I'd look for more subtle signs of your dog looking to you for guidance/affection/bonding. She may just not be a very outwardly affectionate dog. My girl tolerates it from me (she has to...she gets A LOT of it hehe), but she definitely doesn't seek it out, so I've learned to not use that measure as her attachment to me.

I wouldn't worry about it but it's hard to really say without seeing interactions in person :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Some dogs are less attention-seeking/affectionate then others and the rehoming process may have complicated things further.

[snip]

However I know that she's bonded with me. She likes to be where I am, although if she knows that I'm going to be sitting at my desk for a while then she'll go lie down on her bed in a different room. If she hears me moving around she comes to check on what's up. She likes training sessions and seems to enjoy working with me and learning new tricks.

[snip]

When scared of something on a leashed-walk she'll hide behind me. At night she prefers to sleep in the bedroom rather then on her own bed in the living area.
travelingswift -

These observations (quoted above) make me feel much better about the situation.

When I first adopted my dog, she would follow me from room to room. That slowly diminished over time to more what you describe here - if she knows where I am (like working on the computer) she will hang out in the hallway or another room, or even outside - but not too far away. If I move about she will take an interest in what I'm doing.

She enjoys training sessions (and the treats that come with them) and has learned several new tricks since I got her.

Also, what you said about being afraid on leashed walks, she's done a few times - hiding behind me, to have me deal with the perceived threat.

I knew she respected me as 'pack leader'; I need to be in charge of the human-dog pack, but I don't want her to feel intimidated if I walk up.
 

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travelingswift -


I knew she respected me as 'pack leader'; I need to be in charge of the human-dog pack, but I don't want her to feel intimidated if I walk up.

The dominance/alpha theory has been debunked. Your dog knows you are a person and isn't trying to be the 'alpha'. You should take a look at this link, lots of good info there. I think once you put that behind you, you'll find you'll really start to bond with your dog.

http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/dominance-dogs-4076/
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The dominance/alpha theory has been debunked. Your dog knows you are a person and isn't trying to be the 'alpha'.
Perhaps I shouldn't have used that terminology. I am not a fan of the dominance/alpha theory of dog training, and definitely believe in using positive (reward-based) training methods rather than dominance-based methods.

What I was trying to say was that my dog acts submissive toward me, perhaps a little too much so. I don't want my relationship with my dog to be a power struggle, nor do I want to have a dog that is afraid of me.

Off to look at the link now...
 

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I'm really glad to hear that you don't go with the alpha stuff.

Some dogs can take a long time to really settle in to a new home, and you don't know what her past was. Some dogs are also very timid. My GSD Nevada was like that. She was a puppy mill dog, very friendly but very timid. The first day I had her I reached over her to put her collar on and she dropped to the floor and peed. I had to be calm and gentle with her. So I'd just take my time, she could still be settling in. And some dogs are not as outgoing or needing to be at your side at all times. If she likes to play that is a great way to build a bond, as well as training.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Seems I also missed what should have been obvious - the weather!

Earlier in the week was warm and dry, and my dog wanted to just stay outside for hours. Now it's a blizzard out there, and she would rather stay inside with me (except for bathroom breaks and a quick frolic in the snow until she feels cold/wet).
 

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Each dog has his or her own method of showing affection. As she becomes more secure in her new environment you will continue to see changes, IE: she just started territorial barking. Just give her time, and she will evolve at her own pace.
 

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The dominance/alpha theory has been debunked. Your dog knows you are a person and isn't trying to be the 'alpha'. You should take a look at this link, lots of good info there. I think once you put that behind you, you'll find you'll really start to bond with your dog.

http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/dominance-dogs-4076/
I am going to agree in spirit but not in how it was communicated.

Dominance/Alpha as a foundation of dog training has been moved away from because it was built on two fundamental untruths; hierarchy in the group was relatively fixed and that many behaviors originally viewed as being expressions of position were not.

Do not draw from the abandonment of dominance/alpha based training that there is no such thing as dominance or alpha in dogs, because there absolutely is...it can just change moment to moment based on circumstances. (example, a specific female dog may be lower in regards to accessing food resources in most circumstances, but when raising pups may choose to push the issue of who gets to eat first and most and become the dominant one)
 

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I am going to agree in spirit but not in how it was communicated.

Dominance/Alpha as a foundation of dog training has been moved away from because it was built on two fundamental untruths; hierarchy in the group was relatively fixed and that many behaviors originally viewed as being expressions of position were not.

Do not draw from the abandonment of dominance/alpha based training that there is no such thing as dominance or alpha in dogs, because there absolutely is...it can just change moment to moment based on circumstances. (example, a specific female dog may be lower in regards to accessing food resources in most circumstances, but when raising pups may choose to push the issue of who gets to eat first and most and become the dominant one)
Sorry I didn't communicate it well enough for you. I have certain issues that makes it hard to get my words out right, but I don't really like to bring it up. I assume if others are interested in the topic they will do their own research. IMO there is dominance but not the way most people believe.
 

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My first dog, Indy, never liked to sleep in the same bed as me - or even in the same room - right up to the end of our 15 year relationship. He truly needed space. On the other hand, if I had to leave him with someone for a few hours while I was working, he wouldn't even want to go for a walk until I came back. I don't have any doubt he was bonded with me. That's just who he was - an independent sort, at least when sleeping. Maybe I snored, I don't know, but it doesn't seem to have bothered any of the other dogs. ;)


I met a lady at a party the other night, her old, mellow dog snuggled on her lap. She told me how when they first met 10 years ago, the dog would jump out the window of a moving car just to avoid being touched. These babies go through a lot before they come to us, and it's no wonder adjustment takes some time. That, and they are as individual as humans and snowflakes.
 
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