New dog dislikes roommate

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organismal
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Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:21 am

New dog dislikes roommate

Post by organismal » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:54 am

Hello all! I live in an apartment with three other roommates, one of which has recently decided to add a new dog to the household. We currently have a 4 year old female (mainly pit/lab mix I think) here on a trial basis for the week to make sure her temperament fits our household and gets along with the resident dog. Two days and so far so good, except one big problem- she dislikes one of my roommates.

To be fair, it's not really the dog's fault. This roommate isn't familiar with animals at all and when he first met her, he kind of rushed in and snuck up behind her and started patting her head, which spooked her. Resident dog is incredibly easy-going and I don't think he realized that most dogs aren't quite as lax as she is. The new dog has been nothing but sweet to everyone else in the household or people we meet on walks, but just doesn't trust the roomie now. She's not actively aggressive or anything, but will growl/low woof at him if he moves. She even growls if she can't see him but hears him moving in his room.

What we've been doing so far is encouraging her to go up to him as he stays still, and praising her for basically any positive interaction with him. He feeds her treats, too. We've also been telling her "no" when she growls at him but I'm mixed on this- I want her to understand that growling at him is not ok, but I don't want her to repress her warning signals and just end up lashing out if he happens to get too close or something. Thoughts?

If she doesn't markedly improve within the week, she's going to have to go back. We're not going to stand for having a dog that makes anyone feel unsafe in their own home. It'd be a shame, though, because she's perfect in every other way. She's a fantastic apartment dog and gets along with the other dog as well as we could expect right now and we'd hate to have to send her back because of a bad first impression.

Any tips on helping her trust him would be much appreciated!

MildaMatilda
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Joined: Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:53 am

Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by MildaMatilda » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:53 am

Hi,

Not an expert, but can share some advise that I can think of first.

The dog is most likely seeing the roommate as the weak link or even a threatening object. That might be because of this first encounter, but it can also simply be because of the state he's in. The first thing he needs to do is to get confident around the dog. Tell him to never look the dog in the eyes, to walk confidently and if the dog is approaching, and it makes him feel nervous, to just stand as tall as he can, eyes somewhere on the walls and arms crossed.

Only when he overcomes his fears, he can give the dog treats, even feed it, take it for walks, play with it... at least at first be around and help the dog get the idea that this person is just as much fun. Share game with him, go together for walks, talk calmly with him and the dog.

On the other hand, if you see this progressing or not changing, definitely consider another dog or maybe no dog if your roommate cannot overcome his fears. That's not healthy for your household in general.

Hope this helps, but maybe others have more to say about this issue. good luck!

DianeLDL
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Location: Maine USA

Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by DianeLDL » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:44 am

I'm sorry to hear about this one roommate who obviously doesn't feel comfortable with the new dog. I have found with our dog that he seems to sense who is dog friendly and who is fearful. And, he reacts well to those who are dog friendly and want to attack those who he feels is fearful. :lol:

Having just driven for ten days across the United States, we have noticed this with the hotel maids where we stayed on the road. If they seemed to be dog people, he was eager to make their acquaintance and was quite friendly. If they show fear, he barks and growls at them which reinforces their fear so he learns that he can keep the unfriendly ones away by growling. Since the maids go home and don't stay and we leave very early the next morning, it isn't an issue as in your case.

First, I believe that the one roommate started off on the wrong side by surprising the dog from behind. :shock:

As they say, first impressions are everything which not only goes for a job interview as an example but also with dogs.

I know from past experience that when a dog growls at me, it reinforces my fear of the dog which may be happening with your roommate. Hopefully, someone on this list will give you some ideas on how to make a better new impression as well as how to help the roommate feel more comfortable.

Diane
Sandy, Chihuahua mix b. 12/20/09

Ari_RR
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Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by Ari_RR » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:16 pm

organismal wrote: If she doesn't markedly improve within the week, she's going to have to go back. We're not going to stand for having a dog that makes anyone feel unsafe in their own home.
My 2 cents on this..
If for some reason there really is a limit of 1 week - then I'd suggest you guys figure a way to send her back as painlessly as possible. This whole dog thing is doomed to fail if we impose human-driven time limits on changing dog's behavior or attitude or reaction to things... Dogs go at their own pace, some faster, some slower, and humans need to be willing to work with their dogs.. If that's not the case (and there is no criticism here, sharing a place with roommates certainly introduces constraints) - then send her back. The longer she stays with you, the more she will bond to some of you, and the harder it will be on her and on those humans who grow to love her. Even if magically she turns around and accepts this one roommate within a week - there will be other setbacks along the way, other situations where her behavior will be unsuitable for one roommate or another. And if this will again be the case of "one week, or she is out" - seriously, I'd spare everyone the pain and aggravation, and give up on this now.

But - if it is possible to get all the roommates together and truly agree that we (all of us) will work with her and help her and contribute to her training, not just now but going forward too - then God bless you, you will do some good, and enjoy her being there, all of you... That would be really nice, I think...
Last edited by Ari_RR on Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Sabrina
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Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by Sabrina » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:44 pm

Hi! I think Ari has given some great advice re: the time limit for changing a behavior.
organismal wrote:What we've been doing so far is encouraging her to go up to him as he stays still, and praising her for basically any positive interaction with him. He feeds her treats, too. We've also been telling her "no" when she growls at him but I'm mixed on this- I want her to understand that growling at him is not ok, but I don't want her to repress her warning signals and just end up lashing out if he happens to get too close or something. Thoughts?
Your instincts are right on - if the dog feels she can't communicate her uneasiness via growling, you can end up with a dog who will "snap with no warning". Growling is actually very good - it is vital communication to tell you that she is not comfortable. If as roommates you all agree to work with the dog at her own pace, personally I would try having the roommate she is uneasy with ignore her - meaning not looking at her, not talking to her, not approaching her, etc. That will give her time to destress and realize that she won't be forced to do anything she's not comfortable with.

After she's no longer on constant guard for where he is/what he's doing, then the gradual work of having him be the source of good things can start. With fear/stress/anxiety, it's so tempting to push the dog into interactions before the dog is ready. I know - I did this with my own dog. So IMO if the roommate she's afraid of will commit to ignoring her for the time being, that would be where I'd start.

organismal
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Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by organismal » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:01 pm

Thanks for the advice guys! I will encourage the roommate to be more confident/calm around her and not get in her space unless she comes to him.

The week limit is the agreement we have with the previous owners to allow us to see if the dog is a good fit before committing fully. She doesn't have to love the roommate by the end of the week, but we do need so see some improvement to know whether there is potential for her to accept him at all. We'd hate to adopt her and find that a month, two months, more, from now she still hates him and then have to rehome her again.

Thanks again for all the tips, anything that will help her trust him even a little is helpful. :)

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Sabrina
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Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by Sabrina » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:12 pm

Another thing you could try is for any one of the roommates she is comfortable with giving her treats when she sees or hears the roommate she's not comfortable with. Not for her "doing anything", but just because of the sight/sound of that roommate.

So, for example, when she hears the guy in his room, you give her a treat. It doesn't matter what reaction she had - as soon as you hear the sound, give her a treat. Since she's not uncomfortable with you, this doesn't put any "pressure" on her. And since the treat is "free" because the guy made a sound, pretty soon the guy making a sound is associated with something good (the treat!)

This forum is the absolute best place to be for learning how to help the dogs in your life! Everyone here loves detail so don't be afraid to describe everything at length and ask for help/advice!

Fundog
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Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by Fundog » Fri Aug 02, 2013 11:30 pm

Could you just rehome the roomate instead? :wink:
If an opportunity comes to you in life, say yes first, even if you don't know how to do it.

emmabeth
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Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by emmabeth » Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:04 pm

You've had some fab advice here but I just wanted to highlight Sabrina's post - what she is suggesting is counter conditioning, ie, the dog recieves a reward in association with the sight/sound/movement etc of this particular person.

IF you can all do this consistently, and with a high rate of reward (so, everyone has a baggie full of cheese bits, ham bits, etc, really REALLY good stuff) and this guys movements or sounds are accompanied by lots and lots of really great treats, you will find she starts to think the sun shines out of his butt very quickly as long as HE doesn't do anything to freak her out, so he pretty much wants to pretend she isn't there, avoid walking toward her etc, looking at her.

I have done similar with my dogs, clients dogs etc and it really can produce pretty obvious and even remarkable results, quite quickly.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

MildaMatilda
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Joined: Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:53 am

Re: New dog dislikes roommate

Post by MildaMatilda » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:10 am

Hey, how are things? Have you decided to keep the dog and are things getting any better?

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