Dog Forum banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My husband and I adopted a bonded pair about a year ago, Otis and Daisy. Otis and Daisy were found together in an abandoned basement in South Carolina, living in a garbage heap, when they were rescued, and both had heartworms. So they lived in a foster for about six months and healed from their heartworms there, and then were transferred to a rescue near Philadelphia, which is where we live. They are believed to be father and daughter, but we don't know for sure, though I believe they are related for sure. Each are about 15 pounds, and are believed to be maltese/poodle mixes. When we met them, they were sweet as sugar, and though we only planned on finding one dog, together they stole our hearts. To say we love them dearly would be the understatement of the year. Our hearts belong to them completely.

The problem is that we have never been able to curb their issues with strangers and other animals. I don't know if it's aggression or fear, but if pressed, I would say it's more about fear. It started the day I brought them home. When my husband came home, they barked at him and lunged at his ankles, even though they had been darlings with me. They calmed down and remembered him, and then jumped in his lap and cuddled on him all that day. (Also, they have never barked/lunged at me. I think they see me as "the big boss".) They have never actually bitten, and have never drawn blood or broken skin. Other than that, they are the sweetest dogs you could ever hope to meet, always listening and doing as asked with us alone at home. But the barking/lunging at strangers never stopped, especially at men. Women have a chance with them, and they have always loved my husband's mother, but it took *several* times meeting my husband's father to stop going after him. We never know who they will like and who they won't, and I can't find any rhyme or reason to it (i.e. a certain look of person, or any physical traits, aside from that men are harder than women for them to trust). And as far as real strangers on the street when we walk, we've gotten to the point where we can *usually* have them walk by calmly, but sometimes, they just snap and start barking and twisting. Worst of all, being here in the city, we only have a small backyard surrounded by chain link fence, and they HATE when anyone walks by. They bark and lunge and growl, even at children walking by. They are NEVER out there alone, and we make every effort to curb their behavior, but we honestly can't even get their attention when someone walks by the backyard.

When it happens, we have tried sit/stay, and every reasonable effort to stay kind and calm and keep them calm, but so far, the best thing we have found when people come over is to have them in their crate and give them treats when strangers enter to show them that this is a good thing. We have taught them shake (we have taught them all the basic commands btw, and they have been easy to train in that way), hoping we could use it to greet new people, but no dice there. Even when given a long chance for an introduction and someone approaches them slowly and politely, they can do well for a second and let their head be pet, and as soon as the person stands back up to walk away, they dive for their ankles.

I'm sorry this post is so long, but I'm so scared that we are doing wrong by them. I feel like an awful person every time they go off on some children walking home from school when we're in the backyard, and I feel doubly awful that Otis and Daisy are not living their best life. They deserve to be happy and comfortable, and right now, it's always a question mark. We aren't flat broke, but I'm currently unemployed, so we can't afford a trainer. However I am looking into low cost training with the local Philadelphia SPCA. I will never give up on our little sweethearts, but my heart is broken that I am probably not doing the right things to make them able to enjoy the outside world and other people as much as they could.

Any advice is welcome!
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
There is a woman that lives in my condo complex that pulled a small shihtzu cross out of the dumpster - someone actually drove in, tossed the dog and drove off. People are simply incredible. That poor dog took to her new owner pretty quick but still had trust issues, can only imagine what that poor dog went through. She was scared of people and animals - especially scared of men and rightly so. First time I met the dog, she was scared, didn't lunge but it's not hard to tell she would probably bite if I forced myself on her.

But, I worked with her dog every time we met, others did too. With patience she came around, the day she ran toward me and wanted to be picked up, that was a good day. She's an amazing little dog now, socialized, loves other dogs and is great with people.

Maybe consider doing the same, it might work if you can find people willing to offer a little time and patience.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Wow, people really are simply unbelievable. When I was about 11, my family actually had a dog from, literally, the trash. Someone had thrown a litter of german shorthaired pointer puppies into a dumpster, and luckily, a good samaritan saw it happen and went and got them right out, and eventually, one of them found their way to our home.

What your friend with the shih tzu cross went through sounds similar to us. First of all, that is so kind of you to have been there for her! I bet that really was a fun day when she finally jumped into your lap.

I can only imagine what our dogs have been through before they came to us, as Daisy was about 2 and Otis was about 4 when we brought them home. I thought Daisy had opened up to us truly after about a month of being home, but around the six month mark, she became even MORE loving, and I realized that she had still been holding back. I try to keep in mind all the other progress they've made, even when they scare the mothers walking by with their children, lol. :)

Thanks for the advice. I'm going to put out feelers to our friends and see if we can't find a few volunteers to help us continue socializing them on a regular basis.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
I find personally that to bring a dog like this around requires some trust/faith in the dogs, trust them to do the right thing. And relax, if you are nervous or worried every time something happens, you're going to reflect that on the dog.

In this particular case, this particular dog - that alone helped her come around pretty quickly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
189 Posts
It sounds like you are already doing a good job. I'm pretty sure the dogs were previously not very well socialized, so it'll just take a lot of time (and patience) to get them accustomed to strangers.

I would select some 'volunteer' friends to come over and give your dogs treats. Your guest asks for a 'Sit' (or whatever command) and then gives something extremely high value (cooked chicken is usually a winner!). If you're worried about your guests' ankles...hmm....maybe they could wear some thick and tall hiking boots just in case.

It could take many repetitions of this (even over months) for things to improve. So don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen right away.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
279 Posts
I remember hearing one trainer telling someone with a fearful dog that the longer the "bad" situation was that caused the fear (whether lack of socialization, actual abuse) the longer it takes to fix it.

If we assume the worst, that they were in some way abused by men for 2-4 years, then it will take a lot of time to build up that trust again.

If they were never socialized, they have spent their entire lives learning that new things are scary, you are basically trying to rewire a lot of ingrained fears.

It sounds like you are doing the right thing, at least your dogs do not resort to biting, they are just asking for space in the only way they know how.

Keep doing what you are doing, gently ccing the dogs to new experiences, keeping them under threshold. I would also personally not let anyone near the crate, beyond throwing treats from a distance, they should have one safe place where it is guaranteed no one will approach them.

If it helps, keep a diary or a record of interactions, then you will have some kind of reference as to whether they are improving, because if they are improving, even slowly, then it is a sign to keep doing what you are doing, if you go several months with no improvement, then it may be time to review what you are trying and find new options for training.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
11,911 Posts
(A Belated) Welcome to the forum!
Your dogs are lucky to have found a home with you! :)

It does sound like you've off to the right start, just need to take it all to the next level. And it so super great you are seeking help, both here are with your SPCA's training program. :)


To tackle the issues you have now, I would probably start with some additional management.
I know you're likely on a budget, but I would come up with a way to block the visual of people walking by outside. Could be privacy fencing on just the side(s) they can see people. More cost friendly options might be the privacy strips made for chain link, bamboo fencing, or privacy screen.
A simple privacy screen like this might be the most cost friendly. Amazon.com : Commercial Grade 6'x50' Black Fence Privacy Screen (Custom Sizes Available) : Outdoor Decorative Fences : Patio, Lawn & Garden



For management on walks, I would start with a few exercises and eventually perhaps combine them...
-Open bar/closed bar both stationary and moving. Done correctly this teaches an automatic head turn towards you/attention when the trigger (people) appear. It also creates a clear positive association as the appearance of people means goodies are on their way.
-Also u-turns (walk away from the person) and other ways to quickly move your dogs to the side (you would play open bar/closed bar as the person walks by).

Both are in this thread.
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/reactivity-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/
Open bar/closed bar is described. There is also iirc a video or two.
There are videos in post #6 called ''leash walking techniques'' and ''Teaching let's go'' that will help you teach u-turns and ways to quickly get your dogs away/aside allowing people to pass with you play open bar/closed bar.

Also a few other things that can really help...
-Teach your dogs to walk nicely on both sides of your body as well as to in some way quickly move from one side to the other. This allows you to always place yourself between your dog and oncoming people/dogs. If you need it, I will happily video and share how I transition my guys from one side to the other out and about.

-Also arch or bubble out away from people as you walk by them and then return to your original path. That simple little arch can do wonders! Many people get the hint (not all, many are still clueless) and let you be. As far as the dogs, it may mimic a calming signal (body language that dogs use to communicate ''I mean no harm'' or to diffuse a situation). Bare minimum it relieves the pressure a bit (are moving a bit away from not directly towards) helping the dogs feel more comfy. Again, if unsure what I mean, I am happy to get a video and share.

For the best result combine the arch with the open bar/closed bar game. Later on, a nice high rate of reinforcement for attention. Also start with more exaggerated archs. As time passes you can likely make the arch smaller and smaller. With my more veteran guy, his arch is normally not more than a sidestep or two.




As far as training to introduce your dogs to people, I always tell clients we need to work on proximity first! This is because if the dog isn't comfortable with a person nearby, they aren't going to be comfy actually interacting with that person. Just too much and likely to cause a reaction. Also all food should be coming from you during this time. Food from strangers can create conflict. Many dogs will go up to a person they are uncomfortable with thinking they have food, especially if that person squats and/or holds out a hand like the average person does to greet a dog. When food is gone or not there, these dogs often have a ''Uh-oh! Stranger danger!" moment and react. And now they are up close and well within biting range, often with the person's hand right there....

Anyway, open bar closed bar and the other info above will help create comfort with people nearby and ime should be in place first

Once ready to meet a person, I start with the treat/retreat game or some variation of it. Key is that no matter which version the food is tossed, not fed from hand. This keeps it low pressure. The dog is never lured it close, dog is able to choose how close they are willing to come on their own, and lots of mini-breaks via tossed rewards.

This is a simple, straight forward version.

With my dogs and clients with tricks, I do a version I've been calling trick and retreat. I have people ask for their well known (initially hands free) tricks and then toss the treat. Stuff like spin/twirl, sit, etc. is great. I avoid down and rollover as it normally means the person is going to lean over my dog which is normally uncomfortable for them, plus puts human faces closer to dog.

If really enthusiastic and comfy, then I introduce tricks that include physical contact. I normally start with a paw to raised foot. This is because my guys know both to physically place paw on the foot as well as to raise the paw corresponding to the raised foot at a distance. If comfy they tend to willingly come in and put paw on foot. If not completely comfy they tend to hang back and just raise paw. Either way they still get rewarded and succeed, but serves for me as a way to judge comfort before adding other tricks like a high-5 or shake.

With my guys this works incredibly well, as the tricks have such a huge ''conditioned emotional response'' (positive association) and they have actual hands free interactions with people (eye contact, person talking to them and asking for stuff, persona moving, etc.) first. Also while I can't really know what goes on in their heads, but it seems to be a huge relief as the person speaks ''our language''. They ''know the fun stuff'' and are more predictable. ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
WOW, thank you so much for all this fantastic advice, especially this wealth of knowledge from you, KMES.

I too love the arch during walks, and we are well-versed in the u-turn! I can't wait to read up on everything else you linked, KMES.

Also, KMES, what you said about working on proximity with strangers, and the treats coming from me lest they always think strangers have treats and then get alarmed when they don't, I never thought of it that way! A little light bulb went off in my head when I read that –*I have had friends give the dogs treats, and while the dogs take the treats, it ultimately falls apart when the treats run out, and the dogs are on alert again. It sounds like I need to break it down into smaller steps, and like you said, work on just proximity, period. This makes so much more sense based on what we've experienced, and now I see maybe I was pushing for too much too soon.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
11,911 Posts
You're so very welcome! I'm happy to help.:)

Also, glad that proximity first makes sense! It's such a common suggestion from people and even trainers not very experienced with fearful dogs and reactivity to just suggest people feeding treats from hand. Works with some dogs, but for many creates what you're experiencing with your dogs willing to go in for the treats but it not really helping them feel safer or comfy with that person. More and more people are becoming aware though, which is great. More steps involved, but ime faster and more reliable results!;)

If wanting/needing more help doesn't hesitate to ask. If you are comfy, even feel free to take and share some video of training sessions and here. Members are often good about giving tips and feedback. :)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
10,820 Posts
You've been given some terrific advice! The only thing I can add is I'd work with them separately rather then together. When he's with another dog I've found that my reactive dog tends to feed off how the other dog is acting, and if the other dog is good with something he'll settle down quickly, but if the other dog is barking or acting fearful of something he'll act much worse towards it then he normally would if he'd been alone.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TwoBeans

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
That's so true, Rain. Our two dogs have a complex relationship, and I think that there are things that bother Daisy, but don't bother Otis - however, Otis, knowing a thing will bother Daisy, will react strongly to it in order to protect her. I think this is part of why they get to barking and jumping against the fence together when we are in the backyard. I love their relationship, but we definitely have to encourage their separate lives as well. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the advice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
We adopted our dog from a shelter, and she growl and barked at any and everyone. I took her to puppy training class (older dogs welcomed too), and it was a life saver. She slowly grew to trust and be ok with other people and dogs. If you can socialize them like that with a professional it is a great way to go.
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Top