Rescue dog fears, growls at, barks at husband.

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Joined:Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:18 pm
Rescue dog fears, growls at, barks at husband.

Post by markandgale » Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:08 pm

Our three-year-old bichon/maltese, Mattie, spent the first three years of her life in a pen at a breeding facility. No training, no socializing. The only handling she received was when she was lifted by the scruff of her neck, when being moved from one pen to another.

She next went to a rescue shelter, wherefrom I, and my wife Gale, adopted her (February 15, 2009). Gale "mothers" Mattie, so the dog practically worships my wife. No problem there; Gale wants a dog she can love and spoil. That's why we adopted Mattie.

Mattie didn't bark at all for the first two months we had her. When she finally did start barking, it was at me, and only at me. It started when I would enter the bedroom when Mattie would be laying on the bed with Gale. Now it occurs during the day at any room in the house; always when Mattie is with Gale. It's most likely to happen if I make an unexpected move, such as stretching or "clowning around" with Gale. Other times, all I have to do is walk into the room.

I've tried ignoring the barking. I've tried talking gently to her when I enter the room. Gale has scolded her for barking at me. I've tried talking sternly but calmly to the dog. I've tried scolding. I don't know what approach to use.

I can honestly say that I have given the dog no reason to fear me. I've never been abusive in any way toward her.

One point of interest: once I've settled down on the bed or couch next to Mattie, she calms down, lays still, and sometimes licks me.

Advice anyone?

Joined:Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:50 pm

Rescue dog barks and growls at husband

Post by rhsummers » Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:55 pm

I am having exactly the same problem. My rescued miniature poodle - age 2 1/2 - constantly barks and growls at my husband and anyone else who is around me. He does much better when I am not around with most people but not my husband. It is getting to be a real problem. I have him on Prozac but that's not helping.

Please someone help us!

Joined:Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:57 am
Location:nebraska, United States

barking growling

Post by josie1918 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:06 pm

Well, my husband has the same problem with me LOL. I once had an animal behaviorlist tell me "the key to successful training is to find what it is they really like". Since the dog values being with Gale, I would have Gale tell her "no" when she barks at you, if she isn't quiet then put her on the floor. Thus she will eventually learn that barking at the man=No mommy time. When she can be quiet, she gets to stay in the bed, and of course, please also give her a treat.

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Post by Noobs » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:10 pm

I don't think it's even necessary to say "no" - just put the dog on the floor as soon as she starts barking. I'm glad this got bumped, I think some of the others here can give more insight into the issue.

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Post by emmabeth » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:24 pm

Ahhhh... not unusual..

Whilst you say you do nothing 'mean' to the dog and of course.. nothing abusive or intentionally scary...

I would suggest that some things you do... and the very fact you are male, is probably the root cause of the problem.

Not a huge amount you can do about the latter and the former you can only moderate for the time being because she does have to get used to life with you.

As you have correctly identified - sudden movements are scary so try to avoid those near her. You might find that using a higher pitched voice and speaking more softly and in a more feminine way will also help (though I appreciate thats not easy and will feel silly as well!).

Its really easy for us to forget that our normal body language in 'dog' terms is in fact quite easy to mistake for aggression or threats..

For instance we smile when we are happy.... baring our teeth and pulling our lips back at the corners, wrinkling our noses and flaring our nostrils.

For a DOG, baring the teeth, pulling lips back taut and wrinkling the nose is a stressy, threatening sort of communication! Absolutely not what we intend to convey but quite possibly in a lot of dogs, what they 'read'!

With little dogs especially, we lean over them, we hug them, we have our hands all over their necks and heads and shoulders...

WE mean to convey that we love them and are affectionate towards them, and dogs will learn to tolerate this if not actually love it (though a lot do like it), but from their perspective, a dog touching their head and shoulders and neck and towering over them generally means they are going to get their rear end kicked unless they grovel in submission!

High pitched and soft vocalisations are playful, interesting, appealing... whereas a deep, abrupt or harsh voice is threatening ...

So - for the time being try to moderate your normal behaviour around her. It wont be forever... and some stuff you will find you naturally carry on doing anyway because it gets good results.

For the actual specific issue of her barking at you when you move, especially if she is lying with your wife on the bed or sofa..

I agree that her reward is your wife... but I wouldnt be telling her off, telling her 'no' etc - because our verbal communications are easily misinterpreted.

For instance if your wife tells her off or says no, its more likely she will either feel your wife is joining in with the shouting at you..... OR she will link the unpleasant 'Mom'.. with your presence, rather than her own actions. Either way thats not conveying the message you want to convey!

If you tell her off, you are confirming to her what she already suspects, you ARE scary and you might well mean her harm.

It has probably cropped up now because shes got some confidence, shes attached herself firmly to your wife and now her little insecurities and anxious nature tell her she MUST guard this higly important resource... or she might lose it.

So whilst you moderate your body language and work on conveying the idea that you are a HIGHLY rewarding person to be around, you toss treats to her as you go past her (dont ask her to come to you even if she can do this, its much lower stress to just chuck the treats in her direction).. you feed her her meals.... if theres other stuff she likes, do a proportion of that with her too.

And when a situation occurs that she barks at you..... your WIFE gets up and silently walks away from her.

Says nothing, doesnt look at her, doesnt touch her... just removes herself.

It is never more true than when working with animals, the saying 'actions speak louder than words'.

By removing herself, your wife is then giving her a crystal clear signal that this is NOT going to work and she takes no part in this behaviour.

Its absolutely non confrontational, unlike tipping her off the bed or picking her up to remove her from the room, so shes not going to up the ante and start snapping or growling out of fear (*and so theres no chance she might learn that THIS would work)..

Just keep doing this, and I promise you, she will stop.

Bear in mind though if you dont work on giving her no reason to fear you by moderating your body language/actions and also giving her lots of good reasons to want to be around you, it will not be as successful all on its own.

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Post by mselisabs » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:42 pm

Just watched a rerun of IMOTD - I believe the episode was called Girls vs Boys ~ as you can imagine it was a Mini who would bark/growl/run from the boys of the house and it was dividing the family. Please try and watch it! It's both of your exact situations!!

In our family we overcame this problem but making my hubby the primary caregiver... give her all her feedings, do most of the treating, taking her on walks at the best times (first thing in morning, after returning from work, etc) It's been about a month or so and our shy rescue went from running the other direction when he tried to harness her to nudging his hand in the morning and putting her two paws up on his side of the bed :)

BUT he should understand that your pups might always prefer you over him for life, even if she learns to "tolerate" or, hopefully, enjoy his presence.

Joined:Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:18 pm

Post by markandgale » Mon Nov 16, 2009 3:11 pm

Thank you for these replies. I will print these so Gale and I can read them periodically.


Joined:Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:18 pm

Situation update.

Post by markandgale » Wed Nov 25, 2009 2:57 pm

I now give Mattie her afternoon feeding, and this seems to make her less afraid of me. She even occasionally approaches me out of curiosity.


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