greeting agression

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MPbandmom
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greeting agression

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:47 am

I have a rescue dog originally adopted by my son. She was found as a stray at the age of 3 or 4 months. She is very sweet and gets along well with people and dogs once she gets past the original greet and meet phase. It takes her 5 to 15 minutes to adjust to new people and dogs. The dog situatuion seems to be getting worse since we have fenced our yard to allow the dogs some free running space and she becomes very territorial when dogs walk past. Once she actually meets a dog, she seems fine with them. Her initial reaction to seeing a new dog though, makes people reluctant to let her meet them. She has also recently started turning on and snapping at my other dog when we see a new dog. When we encounter dogs, I either distract her with a treat, because she is highly food motivated, or turn her and walk off in another direction. We regularly attend group dog walks. I have recently started tossing treats out of the window when she is guarding the yard to distract her away from the fence. It allows me to react more quickly than running down the hall, and stairs to the door.

Her reaction to people is much the same. She may curl her lip or growl when people reach out to pet her. She tends to react to men or larger stature women more intensly. She may bark at men if I stop to speak with them even if they are standing a distance away and making no moves towards petting her. She seems more comfortable with people who are sitting rather than standing. She will take treats from anybody and then immediately go right back on the defensive. For those people who don't listen to my advise to not try to pet her, and ignore the sign I have her wear out in public that has a picture of a dog with a hand superimposed on that, surrounded with the universal red circle with a line through it for do not, she will lung and snap at them. This too has seemed to become worse as she used to not make contact, but now seems to sometimes make contact. This problem is aggrevated and compounded by the fact that my other dog thinks everybody she meets is her new best friend. Sometimes when children are involved, she will lunge and snap at them when they are petting the other dog. She also tends to walk up to people to check them out/or maybe check them for dog treats, I'm not totally sure, giving the general impression that she is a friendly dog, only to snap at the person when they reach out to pet her. If the person gives her some time to get to know them first, just stand there and pretty much ignore her, maybe give her a treat or two, not try to pet her on her head, but let her sniff their hand and such, she turns into a total love mooch within about 5 minutes. She has to be muzzled for vetting or getting her nails trimmed.

It seems like if I can get her over her initial meeting fear, she would be a happy loving dog much like my other dog. I have taught hand targeting to her as I have seen Victoria use this technique as well as trainers at Best Friends and on Underdog to Wonderdog. Problem being, I can't find many people willing to try the skill with her. I can't really blame them for not wanting to stick their hand towards a dog that may snap at them. Those that do, quickly join the ranks of people that she trusts and doesn't display fear towards. I would like for her to pass the CGC and the Dog Scouts of America Dog Scout test, but am at a loss as to how to get her over her greeting reactions.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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Horace's Mum
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Re: greeting agression

Post by Horace's Mum » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:07 pm

Personally, I would do the opposite and forget trying to get her to greet people, just develop a routine around people that does not involve them touching or approaching her. My dog was similar (TBH probably worse), he will now meet new people as long as they follow the rules of no hand on his head (covers his eyes), letting him approach and sniff first, and don't expect him to accept contact. I have actually taught him to ignore people by giving him a set routine that allows to meet someone but then gives him permission to walk away if he feels he needs to. We often think that getting people to feed out fearful dog will help them learn to trust, but with a "foody" dog it is likely to encourage them into a situation they are not comfortable with, which then leads to a panic reaction when the food has gone.

First of all, make sure that she is never ever given the opportunity to go up to people without your permission. This might mean keeping her on a lead a lot more, or a longline, unless you have a 100%recall when people suddenly appear. And certainly never let her near children until you know for certain that you can keep her away from them. This might mean finding new places to walk, or taking the dogs out separately for a while if you want your other dog to still meet people and play.

So, she is on the lead and you spot a person. Decide on a routine you can keep up, and stick to it. Mine was to ask for a sit beside me, watch me if he was really distracted, and wait for the person to walk past while kind of trickle feeding to keep a high level of reward for staying in a sit and calm. If she breaks the sit, just move her a little further away, maybe turn her round a bit, and ask her to settle again. So you are teaching that people+sitting calmly=lots of treats. As soon as the person has past, walk on with lots of praise. Start asking for the sit when the person is a long way off so you have plenty of time to get her settled and focussed, as she gets better you can start to let the person become closer before asking for the sit. Always keep within her comfort zone, if she can't sit then the person was too close, start sooner next time. Eventually you will be able to wait until the person is right in front before asking for her to sit, and releasing as soon as the person is past, so you are hardly stopping at all. Then move on to step 2.

Step 2 progresses from sitting still to keeping walking. If you can get to the point where asking for sit and releasing is almost instantaneous, then try keeping walking but ask for a close heel, still with high level of reward. Keep yourself between her and the person at all times. So, you get to the point where anyone can walk past and she calmly heels by your side. Keep the rewards up for a long time to keep the positive association, later on you an gradually cut down on them.

Now you need some people who are willing to be models for you. All they have to do for now is stand still and relax. You walk towards the person, keep that focus, ask the person to stop and ask the dog to sit. Ask for a watch me, then invite your dog to sniff the person. As soon as she has sniffed (give her just a couple of seconds, not forever!), call her back in a happy voice and lots of praise and reward. So you are teaching her to approach, sniff and return to you. Practise this lots and lots, with as many people as you can, doesn't matter if she knows them or not. It should become so ingrained that she waits to greet a person until you invite her, and returns as soon as she has had a sniff, without you calling. I use a gesture because my dog is deaf, but you can use a cue word or phrase, maybe "say hello" or "have a sniff".

Once you have that routine down solidly, take it one step further. Send her for her sniff, let her return, and then invite her to go again. This time the person can offer a hand to stroke under the chin, or stroke her chest, maybe bending down to be less scary. The person is NOT to force contact, but to offer it, and if she allows them to touch her then you call her back and reward her. You are teaching her that you are in charge of the situation, you are protecting her, and if she isn't happy she is allowed to return to you and your job is to keep the person away. You should find that she chooses whether or not to go back for more fuss, she might do with people she knows but not with strangers. The key point is that all the rewards come from you, and not the person. Watch her carefully, and if at any point you feel she is becoming uncomfortable, or is even about to become uncomfortable, then you call her away and make a fuss.

This is how I dealt with it, and my dog is happy to have a sniff and come away, if he is uncomfortable he takes himself away and back to me, instead of needing to react. Personally I never ask or let other people feed him, because that might get him into a situation he can't cope with. It also means he doesn't think anyone else has treats so it doesn't occur to him to go up to strangers to see if they have food. I can now leave him off lead when we meet people, he will wait for me to either ask him to heel or invite him to sniff, once he has sniffed he relaxes and ignores them (vitally important due to his deafness, I can't rely on calling him away). The other point to be aware of is that many strangers think my dog is not friendly because he doesn't ask them for cuddles - I know he is a cuddle monster, but in the timeframe on a walk he won't be able to trust a stranger well enough, so I am proud to have a dog that follows his training even if it means other people think he isn't friendly - I'd rather have him alive and aloof than dead because he bit the wrong person.

As for the garden, I would suggest not leaving her out there on her own, stay with her and then you can prevent her from barking by distracting her with treats earlier, before the dogs walk past because you will see them coming. You could even enlist some local dogs to train this intensively if you want. You can teach it to the point of her coming to you for her reward when the dogs walk past, but you have to be consistent and do everything you can to avoid giving her the opportunity to bark from now on. The more she barks, the more it becomes ingrained as a behaviour.

Sorry for such a long post, but I have been there and this is one thing I have dealt with very succesfully! Good luck x

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Horace's Mum
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Re: greeting agression

Post by Horace's Mum » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:09 pm

Forgot to say, after a year my dog was able to pass his Silver Good citizen test, which involved meet and greet and being examined by a stranger, because he was so solid in his routine and he trusted me not to introduce him to anyone he couldn't cope with. And the examination was easy by simply asking him to stand and watch me - his "watch me" is so strong that he will allow a lot without moving.

emmabeth
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Re: greeting agression

Post by emmabeth » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:27 pm

Please do follow Horace's Mums advice here... she really does know about this stuff!

I agree also, no leaving dogs outside unattended - dogs outside on their own do things we would rather they didnt do. They have free choice and their choices are usually not things we like - like digging, rowdy play, bullying one another if theres more than one of them, and... aggressing at stuff on the other side of the fence.

My dogs are NEVER left outside in my back garden (they are never out in the front at all! ever! far too dangerous as people have a right to come up the path to access the front door) unattended for more than a few minutes because the things they choose to do are things I usually dont like.

If I did leave them out there, they would bark at things going past, fence fight with the neighbours dogs, bark at birds and cats, dig HUGE holes, play silly games where someone ends up taking things too far and getting hurt. Dig up my plants!

Its just not worth it, they are never getting useful, good quality time out there alone, only if I am there, so they only go out when I am there. Instantly solves the problem.

Because one of your dogs has figured out some inappropriate behaviours that are fun for her to do already you'll need to do more than just go out there with her, such as take treats, go out to play specific games and/or training sessions, use a trailing leash so you can grab her quickly without a 'chase me game' and take her inside the second she starts up having a go through the fence...

The other thing to bear in mind is this - stress levels take quite a while to drop, certainly days or for some dogs weeks.... not minutes or hours.

Trying to train a fearful and nervous dog when shes constantly winding herself up about htings on the other side of the fence on a daily basis is really not going to work, you will have much more success if you can maintain a calmer frame of mind.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

MPbandmom
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Re: greeting agression

Post by MPbandmom » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:37 pm

The advice does make sense. I kind of wish, I had been given that advice from the beginning rather than the advice to have people toss treats out for her. I'm not sure I can undo that, but I will start working on a better greeting routine with her.

As for the yard, I'm not sure that anything I can say on that won't come out whimpy or lazy, but perhaps a little background on my situation will at least show where I'm coming from.

3+ years ago, I was a life long cat person. My idea about dog ownership was that I had absolutely no desire to own a dog, but if for some reason, I ended up with one, I would want a husky because I think they are strikingly beautiful with their markings and blue eyes. My son was married and in the military. His wife decided she wanted a dog. They went to the local animal shelter where they found Sky, a husky lab mix puppy, blond with blue eyes who had been turned in by a breeder. I met Sky in December that year. She was 4 or 5 months old. They refused my gift of a crate stating that crates are cruel, and pishawed my suggestion that they take her to obedience lessons for loose leash training. My son informed me that he could hold onto his dog. A few months later they separated. Sky went with the wife. No dog and no wife, my son returned to the animal shelter to look for an already housebroken dog as he didn't want to go through puppyhood again. He was just about to leave empty handed when he spotted Sirius in a cage by herself. She could have easily passed for Sky's sister. Full grown, she has the appearance of a Norwegian Buhund. So, for all the wrong reasons, he adopted Sirius. Sirius had fear issues from the start and never really fulfilled the void left by the very social, always ready to play Sky. Sky however was not fairing well in her new environment. Exercise consisted of being tied to a tree. Eventually she became so destructive and out of control, that the couple the wife was living with returned the dog to my son. I met Sirius that next December. Sky had been the first dog I had ever met that I acutally liked. Who could resist those blue eyes, that puppy face, and that wag the body in half with delight at meeting a new person? When I met Sirius though, she stole my heart. A couple of months after I met Sirius, my son's military service ended and he came home with the dogs for what we thought would be about a month while readjusting to single civilian life. While he had always lived where the yard was fenced and the dogs spent most of their time outside when he wasn't home, our yard was not fenced. It quickly became apparent that he was not up to the responsibilities of dog owernship without a fenced yard. So I took over caring for the dogs. He has since moved back out leaving the dogs in my care. It has been a very rocky journey.

First I tried the local pet store for obedience lessons, Sirius became incresingly agressive and reactive and snapped at the instructor on 4 different occasions during 16 weeks of lessons. Sky would "play" obedience for about 30 minutes and then she was ready to move on to other fun things like meeting other customers in the store. Walking the dogs consisted of being drug down the sidewalk arms straight out in front of me, with occasional episodes of Sirius lunging at passing vehicles that she found offensive. I sought the advice of a trainer specializing in behavior issues. They did an evaluation and declared that Sirius was sound sensitive and had environmentally induced dominance. They determined that Sky was an out of control big dummy. They wanted to put Sirius in boot camp and Sky in private lessons. As their price structure for such services was way out of my range, I settled for information on selecting a quality dog food, and a book on how to be the leader of the pack. I later contacted another trainining franchise and with this particular trainer's assistance, I was finally able to begin to turn some problems around. I wasn't totally comfortable with the methods though. Tossing water bags in front of Sky to get her to stop pulling resulted in her shivering in terror. Tossing water bags in front of Sirius when she lunged at vehicles resulted in her ducking for safety behind my legs, but did end the lunging. I evenutally did away with the water bags and focused on circling and stopping to get Sky to walk in a fashion much more closely resembling loose leash. This past summer Sky passed her CGC and she is one check off away from passing the Dog Scout test. Sirius has stopped lunging at passing vehicles unless a whole group of motorcycles go by. She has always been easier to walk. The big issue with her is the greeting agression, which the trainer provided no assistance with.

I have the dogs in Dog Scouts and I am a member of several dog walking groups, but am financially unable to enroll them in classes for things like agility or Rally O. Sky has tons of energy and loves to play fetch and be outside. She will harrass me to go outside. The dogs actually behave well outside when I am there. When we first fenced the yard, I spent a lot of time outside with them and didn't let them go out unless I was out with them. But as time went on, I got tired of being snacked on by mosquitoes, and while the dogs have fur that makes the cold no big deal for them, I am not a cold weather person. The result is that the dogs have been spending more and more time outside by themselves when we aren't involved in a group walk or Dog Scout activity. The temperature the past 2 weeks has been a pretty steady wind chill in the teens and single digits degrees F. This morning I woke up to a flat temperature of 9 degrees F without the wind chill. When I am outside, I distract Sirius away from the fence with treats. Thus the thought that I could likewise distract her away from the fence by tossing treats from my window and save myself from freezing. This has actually been working pretty well although I will admit it is not as effective as being outside with the dogs. So, that is my whimpy lazy excuse for not being outside with the dogs to manage their yard behavior.

Thanks for the advice and I will be working on providing Sirius with a safe structured greeting routine.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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Horace's Mum
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Re: greeting agression

Post by Horace's Mum » Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:32 pm

Ok, thank you for sharing their story, I can see that you may not have chosen this path but now you are on it and you have to do the best you can. I myself got my rescue because I wanted a deaf dog, and he was the one I found. I didn't know about his issues until I had had him a month (he was on best behaviour till then) and I am too stubborn to give up and knew that if I took him back no-one else would ever take him and I would be condemning him to a life on his own in a kennel, as he had been for the 18 months before I got him.

The greeting routine thing sounds like a lot of hard work, because I have to write it down as thoroughly as I can, but although it takes time to do properly, it is not difficult. Forget what you have been doing before, it won't have helped but turn it around now and be consistent and it will start to change faster than you think. Forget everything that has gone before, it doesn't help Sirius, and it doesn't help you to feel guilty for not getting it right first time. So just move on and look forward. Look to the positives now.

As far as the yard goes, it is up to you. I can understand not wanting to be out there in the cold, so it is your choice. You can either accept the barking, or tolerate it until the weather warms and then spend a few months training hard. You should not need to be out there forever with them, but you have to do one or the other, you can't do it some days and not others. If you do decide to do the training and there are some days when you don't want or can't be out there with them, then keep them in a bit more. As with the meeting and greeting, once you begin, don't give them any opportunity to bark or give negative behaviour.

The only other option I can think of is to cover the fences so they can't see over or through them. This might be enough to stop them (it would stop mine but then he can't hear them and yours can, one of the great advantages of a deaf dog!). It might not be pretty, but black plastic is the easiest thing to begin with, you could try that and if it works then save up for some better fencing as a permanent solution. I have no idea what your fences are like now, so this might be irrelevant.

I do feel for you, I have been in the position of having to deal with a dog that I wasn't looking for, and good on you for keeping them both and giving them a good home. Its not easy, and people who have never dealt with a dog with strong issues, especially with people, have no idea how hard it can be on a day-to-day basis, but you have guts and I admire you for that.

Shout if we can help any more, or even if you just need a virtual hug and support, it might be a long road ahead but it is well worth it to give you the confidence in your dogs, and a year or two of work now would mean many more years that you can enjoy them, instead of many years of battling and resenting them.

MPbandmom
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Re: greeting agression

Post by MPbandmom » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:20 pm

Okay, we are focused, this is a new year and time for a new technique. We actually already have a pretty well established sit for people passing, as well as walking past people in situations where sitting isn't feasable. We started this routine to keep Sky from dragging me along/offending passersby in her quest to enthusiastically greet everybody we passed. We will go back to the basics of sitting for people to pass, just to refresh everybody's memory, and then move on to walking past people. For the most part Sirius is ok with this kind of interaction already although she has some problem if I stop to talk to someone, particularly if that someone is a man. So I think once we have some time in on the walking past people, we should maybe progress to stopping to talk to people from a distance before taking the step of having people stop closely enough for her to go and greet.

The only place Sirius is ever off leash is in the yard or rare visits to another fenced area with other dogs she already knows from Dog Scouts or the walking groups.

Thanks again! I'll let you know how it goes.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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