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Fidel: Havanese/Chihuahua/?
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all. My little guy Fidel (about 10 pound, mixed breed ~2 year old) was homeless for a few weeks before the lovely ladies rescued him. It took them a few days to trap him, because he didn't trust humans during his ordeal. Then he and I bonded in January of this year. He is perfect in every way (he follows me around closely without a leash) but one: he does this charging & barking attack (but never bites; he's so small it's only an annoyance) whenever we encounter anyone. He does it to my neighbors, people he's known for months. Once he did it to my older neighbor who had simply gone into her place to get sunglasses then came back out!
I've tried keeping it light and positive; I tried treats and asking my neighbors to give him treats; I've gotten increasingly frustrated and he's very sensitive. Sometimes he starts doing it, then winces immediately because he knows he's in trouble. He seems unable to stop himself and I can't get through to him that this is not acceptable behavior.
Usually my neighbors say something kind like, "It's okay. He's protecting you." But I need to get him to stop this.

Is there a way to convince him to stop this without leashing him?

 

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I don't really see a way for that to happen without a leash for two main reasons.

1. I have a feeling that the extra distance is messing up your timing and the process. For example, is the treat really creating a positive association with people, or is it rewarding him for coming to you?

2. While off-leash, he is getting to practice the charging more. Which will make it harder to break.

The leash thing doesn't have to be forever. It might also not be needed for the entire walk if you are going to a quiet off-leash space.

Can you explain in detail how these scenarios are going? Just so we can be more accurate with our recs.

Just a thought, but what your dog wants most in these situations is more space. Is there a way to incorporate that?

Example: dog sees trigger. You are in a quiet suburb, or there is an empty bike lane. You give space to the trigger and walk on the side of the road or in the bike lane past the trigger. After you pass a bit, you get back on the sidewalk and resume.

Or even teaching your dog to switch sides so you are between them and the trigger.
 

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Fidel: Havanese/Chihuahua/?
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
THANK YOU so much for the response.

He usually shadows me pretty closely off leash, but I like giving him freedom to sniff about. It occurs sporadically; about 2/3 - 3/4 of the time. it seems to happen more frequently when we've been in a spot for a few minutes--he seems to consider it our domain, and it occurs when someone approaches us.
It also seems to occur whenever he's startled; if we come around a corner and someone appears.
Sometimes it occurs when I'm in conversation with someone, and another person approaches or passes by.

This morning it happened when my neighbor and her toddler son were approaching. I said to Fidel gently, "You're a good boy and you're not going to bark. It's just Beckett and his mom."
Then I said a gentle hello and waved to the pair, and Fidel started barking aggressively and charging. He listened and stopped immediately when I shouted his name, but now I worry that he associates any approaching person with apprehension.
Sometimes I don't even have to say anything to stop him; he'll start barking & charging, then wince as if he knows he made a mistake. But he just can't stop himself from that initial impulse to bark and charge aggressively.

He's also not extremely treat- or food-motivated. I was giving him the treats mostly to plug his barking little pie-hole.

I guess we'll just have to resort to the leash then. Do you think he'll become conditioned to stop? Or might he just resume as soon as I put the leash away? I've been lucky in the past and never had a dog that required a leash before. I'm hoping Fidel and I will get past this.

Thank you again so much for your insight and guidance.
 
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He needs conditioning with people and security. Can you bring people into the house so he can interact in the safety of the indoors? Invite people in for this purpose specifically? How does he like being held? Can you pick him up and let people approach gently and let him sniff their hand before they slowly reach out when he’s safe in your arms and supported?
 

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I wouldn't lift him, that won't comfort him as much as it will confine him, and the feeling of being trapped will make him worse.

Look at it from his perspective. He doesn't trust people, you know that already. So when a person gets close, he is trying to chase them out of his space. That's what the barking and charging is all about.

So, give him more space. Find out the sweet spot where he is aware of people but not actually reacting and reward, reward, reward. The aim is to change his perception of people but its crucial that you do this outside of his reaction zone. You are not doing it to stop a reaction in progress. If he is reacting, you are too close.

Is there a quiet park where you can just sit with him, and watch people in the distance? Or do you have a car, can you take him somewhere where he can watch from there (if he is happy in the car)?
 

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Fidel: Havanese/Chihuahua/?
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you. That makes sense. He tends to shy away from people who hold out both hands. It's as if he's afraid they'll pick him up.
I handed him to a nice man at a park on Friday and Fidel seemed pretty anxious while the stranger held him.
We usually go everywhere on the motorcycle. He doesn't like riding in the car. He has no problem with pedestrians when we are on the bike.
We don't get too many visitors (thanks Coronapocalypse), but he's been pretty good with them. He barks when they enter, but then settles down quickly enough.
We go to parks all the time, and we have some terrific ones. Heck, we practically live in a dog park. I wish I could understand his thought processes and his reasons better. I love him so much.

 
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We usually go everywhere on the motorcycle. He doesn't like riding in the car.
The motorcycle would work just as well as a car, especially if he already likes it :)
I handed him to a nice man at a park on Friday and Fidel seemed pretty anxious while the stranger held him.
I understand why he would feel like that - if you were afraid of something, and you suddenly found yourself in their clutches (for want of a better expression), can you see how scary that would feel?
 

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I feel.pretty confident he will be able to return to being leash-less. And if done right, ignoring people should be pretty routine. Or, as I said, he may not even need it for the whole walk. Or.maybe just a partial leashed life. Remember, what he wants.most is.for people to give him space. And as a small, cute guy, it wouldn't surprise me at all if people were swooping in on him like vultures and picking him up as a puppy.

Rather than stopping to talk though, I'd work on him switching sides and hustling on to start. Then you add duration, and then closeness. In a case like this, getting space without needing the whole barking-charging may be reward enough. Though I will also add, try sardines. They are horribly smelly, but usually pretty high value.
 
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