Jump to content
BC Boards
Barbara2

Need help! 10month old BC fearful and aggressive behavior

Recommended Posts

Hi there;

 

I am fairly new to this forum; I am following it by reading but have never posted before. But now I have a problem at hand and I need some constructive advice!

 

I have a 10-month old BC, got her when she was 2 months old. She came from a backyard breeder (this I learned just recently when the same dame had a litter again, and now another litter is being offered from this same person), who kept the litter for 2 months in a barn. The sire was a very shy dog, who wouldn't even come to his owner when called. (My alarm bells should have rang then!). When she came to me, she was the most scared dog I have ever met. Never wagged her tail, not even for food or treats (still doesn't). Very shy when small (didn't bark then, but mostly growled at people), not really curious, which in a way was good because she stayed out of trouble and didn't try eating up all my furniture. I don't work so the dog is 24/7 with me.

 

So now she is 10 months and my biggest problem that she is very fearful of people. As soon as she was cleared as a puppy in the sense of having all her shots etc, I did take her out in the world, as much as I could (perhaps I should have taken her out sooner?). We dont have much family or friends nearby, so there were and are never any visitors around, so we she would mostly only meet neighbors who would walk past us, or strangers on the street.

 

These days, she goes to dog parks, where she totally ignores people and nicely plays with dogs. She goes once a week to a doggy daycare, where she plays well with the other dogs (this in order to make her comfortable so we can leave her there overnight, if such need would arise). However, she is VERY anxious, when the attendant comes to escort her to the area where the dogs are. Often she will bark at him or her very aggressively. I bring treats and give them to the attendant, and my dog will take the treats from a distance, and when the treats are gone, then she'll be all bark again.

Two weeks ago, the attendant crouched down with treats in her hand, and my dog stood there very stiff, barking in her face, just inches away. I am afraid she will bite next time!!

Next time I came to the doggy daycare, I met another attendant whom I told what happened and I said to her to "not try to be her friend, but just take charge and show her your dominance." The lady took the leash, and my dog followed reluctantly, yet without barking or aggressive behavior. That was much better!

 

But it's another thing just out on the street. When we meet someone on a walk, she will even try lunging at him or her. Some people don't seem as threatening to her as others, yet I am always ready for her to try jumping at them.

 

Today, we visited a relative whom she saw perhaps twice before. When we came to this relatives house, she barked him out and was very aggressive, so I kept her on the leash indoors. After awhile, she calmed down and didn't seem to mind his presence, even at close proximity. Later, I went out the backyard with her and she fetched a ball for me. The relative came out, and she (off the leash now) came up to him, aggressively barking. He just stood there. Suddenly she jumped with her front paws on him, barking, and when he pushed her down, she circled him just a bit, before she bit his side of his leg (he stood still the whole time). It wasn't a hard bite, but rather a nip.

 

Another time, when she was about 5 months old, a neighbor lady walked by and my dog, who was at that time off the leash on a lawn, ran up to her (100 feet away from me) and started circling her and barking at her. The lady got terrified and of course circled with her, in order to keep an eye on her. Then my dog jumped up and bit on her jacket and hung there a bit. Meanwhile I came running behind and I said "Leave it" to no avail. It was actually a chaotic scene... one adult just turning herself around, and the other adult running around her like a mad woman, trying to snap my dog.

Eventually I got her. That episode I noted as some crazy puppy behavior, since the dog has done this to me too before. She would circle me, try nipping me. But with me ---so I thought--- it was play, not serious attacking. While she would do it to me, she would bark too. Usually she would do this to me, when she understood that I would put her back on the leash and our walk would come to an end. -- Later on, I learned two things from this episode: don't have the dog off-leash where people could come by so close, and second, I should have called my dog and run AWAY from the neighbor lady, when my dog charged at her. Most likely my dog would have returned to me and followed me. But then, she might not have. I don't know.

 

These days, when we walk on a lonely road, and a person comes towards us, the dog will stiffen up and immediately bark/growl/try to lunge. When we walk on an urban road, in a city, she will perhaps notice the first few people we meet, and stiffen up, but with more people going by, she ignores the situation more and more. So she is almost fine with them.

But a lonely road or anywhere in our neighborhood, where there are many houses but fewer people, it is something entirely different!

Also, about 2 months ago, she also started to lunge at anything moving by. That might be a car, a bicyclist or a skateboarder. The "leave it" command is here beyond help. I am not even sure she hears me when a car goes by. Same with people -- she will be so focused on barking/growling, that she ignores me completely.

Just last week I noticed, she will sometime crouch down, when a car comes directly at her.

 

Now, for full disclosure, I have to say that she is a very picky eater. I was told by a vet (and I read this frequently in books about dogs too) to just give her the bare essentials, and give her her food for 5-10 minutes and then take the uneaten bowl away, not to fancy it up with anything (like parmesan or a bit of turkey thrown in).

 

She is supposed to eat 3x a day still, and we feed her Orijen, but when I just give it to her like it comes from the package, she often refuses it for the whole day. She might eat the third bowl of the day, then, in the evening only (then I give her the whole days ration, not just the third part). So what I want to say is that she might be really grouchy all day long because she doesn't eat. I say "might" because I don't really know..... she just seems an unhappy dog. Aware, anxious, but never really wagging her tail.

 

There were weeks where she lost weight and then I gave in and "enriched" her food again.

I wonder, if her aggressiveness has to do with her being hungry?

But then, of course, even on a full tummy, she is fearful and agressive!

 

I had such great plans for this dog... I wanted her and me to go to an agility school, but I learned that the dog must be off leash there and that I have to have full control, and I just can't trust her with people.

She doesn't have another daily "job", so there's definately another reason that she is anxious. I am taking her on long daily walks and spending time running her, but mostly in rather unpopulated areas. She knows some tricks and I do challenge her mind, but somehow this aggressive behavior is beyond me.

 

I am deeply dissappointed because I failed her. I had another BC before (adopted when she was middle age), who was a low energy dog and while she was okay with people, she was aggressive towards other dogs. We were able to manage this.

But now, my neighbors don't come close anymore, because they are afraid of my dog, and I am equally afraid of going out with her.

 

I tried clicker training before, with treats. Perhaps I am inconsistent, perhaps I figured out that she is beyond control, when she is in this aggressive mode... but I dropped that.

I still treat her for good behavior; but I find myself more and more impatient with her aggressiveness. There are only SO MANY times when I can ignore her barking, while a neighbor passes me on the street. Lately I am keeping her really on a short leash even on our daily walks (not using the extra-long 26 ft flexi leash anymore), so she would understand that she doesn't need to defend me and that I am leading. But she still tries jumping from behind me, lunging at anyone even close.

And I feel of course even more guilty, because I think that she should have some more freedom when we are out on our walks.

 

Also... what to do when the next vet visit comes up? Last time around, the dog was 6 months old when she went there to be fixed. Now she is bigger.... I don't want that she bites the vet!

 

All what I have written, might be just my wrong perception and I AM handling her totally wrong (because in those last 8 months, nothing really has worked out well enough; and I did work with her daily).

I hate putting it on her "genes", or her isolated upbringing in the lonely barn without much people contact or on her "overprotectiveness" of me, her owner.

 

How can fear of strangers be overcome?

 

What advice can you give me?? I am at my wits end.

 

Barbara

 

P.S. She IS cute, though, when she sleeps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I hate putting it on her "genes", or her isolated upbringing in the lonely barn without much people contact

 

I can understand your reluctance, but both of these factors could and probably are partially or even mostly responsible for her behavior. There are often also handling issues but when a dog is this afraid of people and this aggressive it usually isn't because the owner made the dog that way somehow. A dog of sound temperament can take all sorts of inept handling and not wind up being a menace to society.

 

My advice is to seek the advice of a certified veterinary behaviorist who is capable of both diagnosing any underlying biological cause and of providing you with a training and behavior modification protocol that will help you improve your dog's behavior.

 

I have a dog much like yours and with the assistance of excellent trainers, mentors, some behavioral medications, and a highly qualified veterinary behaviorist, he was able to compete in agility, train in stockwork (and sort of run in two trials), and live a full, happy, and essentially normal life. Most people who see him do not think there is anything remarkable about him. He is still fearful of strangers who approach him directly, so I don't make him greet people he does not know. But, we lived in a very urban environment until very, very recently and he was able to ignore everybody, including crowds of people, as long as no one was singling him out and trying to pet him. I am OK with him never being a social butterfly so to me this was a satisfactory outcome. It did take a lot of work, but he is my canine soulmate so it was entirely worth it. I adopted him at the age of 16 months and he will turn 11 years old in May.

 

I would also recommend a couple of books: The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell and The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. Both of these books were extremely helpful to me. It is possible (probable, actually) that your dog will never be "normal," but with some work and love it is entirely possible that she will learn to do a good enough impersonation of normal to suffice for everyday life. Good luck, I know it is not easy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ditto everything that Melanie said.

 

It is highly probable that your dogs issues are genetic. Some dogs just aren't "right", but there are things that can help. A qualified veterinary behaviourist would be my first stop for sure!

There are also a couple of Yahoo groups for fearful dogs where you can find some support;

http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Pos-4-ReactiveDogs/ and http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/shy-k9s/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Double Ditto on everything.

 

I have also been through this type of behavior with a dog. In addition to the previously mentioned books, I also recommend Feisty Fido by Dr. Patricia McConnell. While it deals mostly with leash aggressive dogs, it has some great advice to maintain control of the situation (in fact, I've taught the techniques to all my dogs and it has helped create a greater level of trust). Another great book it Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also agree with the previous posts, their insights, and their book recommendations. Reading this forum was perhaps the greatest help I found for working with my fearful, reactive dog. (You can read our stories in our many long, previous posts. Melanie's work with Solo shows maybe the most extreme case that has found success. You can also read some heartbreaking stories that don't end nicely - but show the utmost in commitment from the owners, and also have good advice.)

 

My dog was perhaps two when I got him, and showed a lot of the behaviors your dog is showing: fearful growling, lunging at strangers (human and canine), apparent aggressiveness. One thing that hasn't been mentioned that I found very helpful with Buddy was slow, gradual exposure from BEHIND. I was lucky enough to live near a green park where many dog people took their pets. After seeing that Buddy couldn't deal with meeting people, I began just walking behind groups of people and dogs. In this situation, Buddy could scent out all the human and dog smells, familiarize himself with them, and still feel safe because no one was approaching him. (The other dog-lovers had already seen Buddy at his worst, and were more than happy to try to help with the situation by allowing me to skulk around behind them!)

 

At first, we would be far behind others - maybe 30 to 40 feet. Slowly, we began moving closer. At some point, I had strangers ahead of us start dropping high-value treats to Buddy; I know I had read this suggestion in one of the recommended books. Over a long, gradual time - maybe six months - Buddy began to associate certain people with comfort and food, and to be able to walk next to them as they moved around the park. One man worked very closely with us, and Buddy began to show happiness and excitement to see the man - a great step.

 

I would also take Buddy into the city on occasion - very early in the morning, when there weren't many people out - so he could get used to the sudden motions and noises that happened there. It was tough in the beginning for him to deal with so many transitions: turning corners to new vistas, people appearing out of doorways, train and truck noises. I started with very short, 1-block trips, then increased the duration. As Buddy got used to people in the park setting, his ability to tolerate the city got better and better, and now he can handle high-density populated areas.

 

Buddy is six now, and he looks normal most of the time. Strange men suddenly coming at me, or trying to manhandle him, and he'll still bark and back away, but he calms down quickly and doesn't have that universal panic that he used to get. He's not great with strange dogs, but he can handle their being within about 18 inches of him before he snarls. I'd say the key word with him is gradualness: he can handle almost anything, if it's introduced gradually and not in quick, noisy leaps. The reading materials listed above will describe the dog's threshold, and that's pretty much what I mean by gradualness. Once the dog is set into a fearful panic, it's nearly impossible for him to learn, so you try to keep him under threshold so the learning can happen.

 

Good luck and let us know how things go!

 

Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Double Ditto on everything.

 

I have also been through this type of behavior with a dog. In addition to the previously mentioned books, I also recommend Feisty Fido by Dr. Patricia McConnell. While it deals mostly with leash aggressive dogs, it has some great advice to maintain control of the situation (in fact, I've taught the techniques to all my dogs and it has helped create a greater level of trust). Another great book it Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training.

 

 

Triple Ditto!

 

Feisty Fido is an excellant book and Patricia McConnell also has another one called "Cautious Canine".

 

Fear and agression in dogs can be very complex to work through especially when your pup has missed critical socialization and unlike some breeds, I think herding dogs can be less forgiving of that lack then other breeds. Two things that occur to me right away is do not put your dog in a situation where she feels the need to defend herself - she has shown a willingness to bite and although it was inhibited it is not good and may not stay that way. The other thing is space - you need to be very aware of space around your dog and what she fears. If she is reacting, it is too close. You really don't want to push her to the point of reaction because then you also tense up and that is communicated down the leash.

 

I have two fear-reactive dogs - one is more than not based in genetics, the other is unknown as she has an unknown background. In both cases we spent a lot of time simply desensitizing with lots of treats and no expectation of behavior - we maintained a distance where she was aware of what she was afraid of but not actually reacting to it. Over time the distance is decreased. This takes a long time and many steps and is best done with a behaviorist - or a dog trainer qualified in working with these issues in a positive manner (I would not recommend something along the lines of Dog Whisperer though I know he has a strong following - that is just my personal bias).

 

I was fortunate in that I lived close enough to a behaviorist/dog trainer (close enough being 2 hours) that I signed up for a reactive dog class which helped us tremendously and gave me tools to continue working with her. One of the things we taught her was a default "relaxation" behavior - in her case, a down on her side. We did this with a clicker and because she was clicker saavy she eventually offerred it - we rewarded it, and it became over time and much reinforcement a default - she started offering it in times of stress and with it came relaxation because of all the reinforcement she got. So - rather than rushing to the end of the lead screaming invectives at the 'threat", she lay down and looked to me for treats. There is a lot of power in that! :rolleyes:

 

One of my dogs, Jessie - is NOT trustworthy with other people, she has not bitten but I feel she would if pressed. At some point in her life she has learned aggressing gets her what she wants - what ever scares her moves away and her threshold is extremely low and quick. This is very hard to unteach. I have decided for safety, that I will not do that and instead we have worked hard on attention and a solid recall - it helps that she is sensitive and a hard tone of voice floors her and gets her attention away from whatever and back to me. She is a dog that is very bright, an incredible learner (I've never had a dog this quick) and so very trainable it's heartbreaking. She will never be my obedience dog despite the fact she heels beautifully because I will never be able to trust her on a stand-for-exam. This is a reality we have had to accept and you might have to with your girl. It doesn't mean you can't do other things with her - it means you will have to see what she gives you, and let her tell you what path is the best one for her and you. With training comes confidence in a job but that job might not be what you expected - maybe not obedience but tracking, or maybe stockdog work. I know that is really hard - but don't think of it as giving up a dream, but changing your dream to fit your dog.

 

None of this would have been possible if I hadn't had help from qualified people though - it's just not enough (for me at least) to get it from the book. Reading these dogs is not intuitive most of the time, and it's easy to inadvertently reward or correct the wrong things and it's hard to know what is safe for you dog and for the public and what is not. I really recommend the one on one help if you can get get it. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for you advice. Great to hear that there isn't only me with such a dog, plus perhaps there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have read some of the books you guys recommended, and most vivid in my mind is the Culture Clash, which gave me great insight, yet I am still finding myself very much struggeling with the issue.

 

I love the idea of walking behind people in the park; because yes, my dog doesn't want to be singled out either (with attention, or simple eye contact). I am not sure how I would approach some stranger and pursuade him/her to drop treats for my dog, but the idea seems genial.

 

As far as my dog not eating.... yesterday I broke down and we bought a bag of simple Iams kibble. We mixed this 50/50 with the expensive Orijen, and the dog ate it all. My husband says, that stuff is like junk food for people and he is reluctant to give it to her, but I dont know.... a 10-month old lean puppy shouldn't loose weight, no? Better have her eat the doogy version of junk food instead of seeing her not eating, because the expensive quality stuff doesnt smell good?

 

I hear you, Melanie, in regards to seeking professional help. When you mentioned your dog, you wrote about "the assistance of excellent trainers, mentors, some behavioral medications, and a highly qualified veterinary behaviorist", which to me unfortunately translates into lots of $$$. I admit, this was another mistake of mine when we got the puppy, because I thought paying pet insurance would be sufficient enough to excuse having a dog (it was sufficient with my other dog). Yeah, for broken legs maybe and other physical injuries..... but it doesn't cover mental issues.

I can't right away afford paying someone $80+/hour to fix my dog, but I guess I'll have to start saving my pennies for this and hope I can afford paid help before its too late for my dog and the dog totally looses it.

 

How does one find a "qualified veterinary behaviorist"? I googled it up for my town (Portland, OR), and found one person's homepage. The consultation fee per hour was $220. Is this the normal price?

Is there an organization that lists such specialists? Or does someone here in this forum know someone in Portland who could help with that kind of fear aggression?

 

Barb

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am not sure how I would approach some stranger and pursuade him/her to drop treats for my dog, but the idea seems genial.

 

LOL! Yes, approaching strangers "cold" is odd.

 

But... I would bet money that if you hang out in a park, people will approach and want to be all lovey and patty with your dog. THESE are the people I would lure in. I'd say, "He's very fearful, and I'm trying to work with him. Would you mind not looking him in the eye, and tossing him some treats?" In general, the people who liked dogs enough to try to make friends with my dog would love the idea of helping out a poor needy fellow. (Then there were the difficult ones: the "all dogs love me" folks who dismissed what I said and still lunged at my dog. I learned to just walk away from them and avoid them in the future.)

 

I also would coach people on body language: squatting down and averting the eyes was successful. Even squatting down and letting the dog approach from the rear, which is natural for dogs. Sitting people were even better, in Buddy's eyes - less likely to suddenly pursue him, I'd guess.

 

If you meet someone often enough (say, use the park a few times a day, predictably), you'll get to know people who will become "regulars" for you and the dog. At least that's how it's always worked for me and the strangers-now-friends I've picked up since getting Buddy.

 

Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LOL! Yes, approaching strangers "cold" is odd.

 

But... I would bet money that if you hang out in a park, people will approach and want to be all lovey and patty with your dog. THESE are the people I would lure in. I'd say, "He's very fearful, and I'm trying to work with him. Would you mind not looking him in the eye, and tossing him some treats?" In general, the people who liked dogs enough to try to make friends with my dog would love the idea of helping out a poor needy fellow. (Then there were the difficult ones: the "all dogs love me" folks who dismissed what I said and still lunged at my dog. I learned to just walk away from them and avoid them in the future.)

 

I also would coach people on body language: squatting down and averting the eyes was successful. Even squatting down and letting the dog approach from the rear, which is natural for dogs. Sitting people were even better, in Buddy's eyes - less likely to suddenly pursue him, I'd guess.

 

If you meet someone often enough (say, use the park a few times a day, predictably), you'll get to know people who will become "regulars" for you and the dog. At least that's how it's always worked for me and the strangers-now-friends I've picked up since getting Buddy.

 

Mary

 

Though I think this is a good idea I would caution you to go a little more slowly given your dog has already bitten. I know my Colt couldn't have dealt with anyone squatting or sitting at the outset. We had to start a good distance away in order to keep him under threshold with me feeding treats as he barked and he hadn't ever lunged or growled at anyone. He would back off and bark. I used treats to counter condition for the first few weeks than moved on to ball play which was much more rewarding for Colt. He was just over eight months when he went into stranger danger mode., though it had appeared at 4 mos. and again at six a little bit. It is also genetic with him, his father. We can now be without treats or balls and he does just fine, though he is not interested in meeting most people and that is fine with me.

 

Another good book is Control Unleashed. The exercise in there really help a dog come back to calm if you work them at home first. Gives you and the dog some tools out in the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Barb,

 

I congratulate you for recognizing that there is a serious fear problem and not falling into the dominance alpha trap. I agree with the advice that you have received and encourage you to get help for your dog sooner rather than later. If there is a bite, you may potentially face legal problems and even if there isn't a bite, "aggressive" behavior in public can still cause legal issues depending on your local laws.

 

Like Melanie, I have a dog on meds. I have copied a post describing my experiences with my dog from another thread. The principles of desentization/counter conditioning will be the same for a fear aggessive dog regardless of whether the trigger is humans or animals. Of course, the use of meds would be up to the descretion of your regular vet or the vet behaviorist. I will caution you that meds aren't a cureall and merely bring the dog down to earth so it can start to think.

 

Here is a link to a list of board certified veterinary behaviorists:

 

http://dacvb.org/about-us/diplomates/

 

I paid ~$350 for the behaviorist to come to my home (it was a very local trip) and she stayed about 2.5-3hours.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

And here are my experiences with my dog:

 

I obtained my BC from the county animal shelter. She had been picked-up as a stray from a rural area and based on her body condition, she had been on her own for awhile. The county vet estimated that she was 1.5 years old. So, her history is completely unknown. Three days after coming home, she developed a terrible upper respiratory infection (think green snot, fever, etc) and had to be isolated from other dogs, including my resident dog for 6 weeks. During that time, while walking her around the neighborhood, I noticed that her body language was very up, when she saw dogs in the distance. However, her introduction to my dog, who is great with other dogs, was actually very uneventful, although she did hid behind a chair in my spare room (with the door open) for the first 24 hours after the intro.

 

The fear aggression manifested in group obedience and agility classes. There was much growling, lunging, etc . The obedience instructor wanted me to "flatten her". Although I consider this person a friend, I never went back to her class. I pulled my dog from both group classes. I later learned that she scared people in the classes.

 

Her trigger was dogs (but not her "sister"). Especially medium sized and large dogs. Any sort of frontal approach or eye contact made her go ballistic.

 

When walking thru the neighborhood, she knew where every dog lived and she would start looking for the dogs behind the fences even if they weren't there.

 

The strange thing was that it took hours for her to come back to earth after an encounter with a strange dog. And these weren't physical encounters, they were visual. She would pant and be agitated for hours after seeing a strange dog. For awhile, I had toyed with the idea of consulting with the DVM behaviorist and finally did after a bizarrre incident. On the way to a class (this was after months of private lessons), we had stopped at a local park. On the trail, we encountered a man walking 2 small white dogs. I told the man to keep his distance and ofcourse the damn dogs were on flexis. One of the dogs approached my dog and barked at her from maybe 2 feet away--only barked at her, no physical contact. She sat down, looked terrified, didn't make a sound. We walked back to the car and I put her inside. She sat on the back seat and just started growling. At nothing. After we drive to class, she blew up at the first dog that we saw, the dog was about 30-40 feet away and wasn't even looking at her. I contacted the DVM behaviorist the next day.

 

In the early days, she growled a lot, but never made eye contact with me while doing so--actually she would go out of her way not to look at me.

 

The behaviorist came to my house and observed her alone, and with my other dog, and we talked for 2.5-3 hours. The dog was diagnosed with moderate generialized anxiety disorder. The vet prescribed prozac. The prozac was by no means a cure all, but it did help her come down to earth faster after seeing another dog. Instead of being wild eyed and panting for hours after an "encounter", it was minutes, so it gave us a window for learning.

 

The first thing that we did was to minimize her exposure to her "triggers" (strange dogs ), so her stress hormones could dissipate and to allow time for the prozac to reach therapeutic levels. During this time, I rewarded (with food) relaxed behaviors. Basically, she was rewarded for what we called her happy expression (ears up, soft eye contact with me, relaxed facial muscles) and later this was put on command. We started in a quiet room in my house, moved to my backyard, and then gradually went on the road. At the same time, if she saw a dog (there were visual encounters with dogs that I just couldn't control), I would say "dog" and then shove peanut butter or baby food in her face, no matter what she was doing, even if she was acting-out. Yes, I know that it seems like its rewarding bad behavior, but it's really changing negative associations (dogs) to positive associations (PEANUT BUTTER!!). During this time, I intentionally exposed her to dogs at great distances (initally a neighborhood block away), while saying "dog", shoving food in her face, and then doing a 180 and walking away. Over time, we moved closer to the strange dogs.

 

This whole process took about a year and is still ongoing. Now, she can participate in group classes, herding clinics, walk thru Petsmart, etc without exploding. And if she starts to react, I can stop it by saying "dog". To give you an example how this works, a few days ago I was walking down the street with her and a dog behind a fence started barking at her. She barked once and started to lunge. I said "dog" in a happy voice and she self-interupted the lunge, looked at me, and then started boucing up and down with her tail wagging, so I gave her a treat. This also works, if I don't have food in my pocket. Because I've changed the negative association to a positive association using a bridge (the word "dog").

 

Over time her generialized anxiety has decreased. She is less clingy with me. Her respiration is more normal (she was always panting), and she sleeps more soundly. Several months ago, I tried to wean her off the prozac, but wasn't able to because she started having random episodes of anxiety (panting in the car) and reactivity. I may try again this summer.

 

So, that's the story. The process has been expensive and time consuming--obviously not something that many people would be willing or able to do. As I said, I don't know her history. She was 1.5 years old when I got her and I've had her for just over 2 years.

 

BTW, even with all her barking, growling, and lunging, she never harmed another dog. During her bad times, we had several encounters with loose dogs and her response was always silent terror--she would sit in one spot and look like she was being raped. I've read that this is pretty typical for fear-aggressive dogs, the show is designed to maintain space, but once the boundary is breached, the dog just gives up.

 

I don't know what went wrong with her, if she had a bad experience, was poorly socialiazed, if her first owner(s) screwed up, and/ or she has bad genes. I'm guessing that it is a combination of all of the above. I will say that panic disorder tends to run in human families and there is very definately a biochemical component. There is no reason to believe that dogs are any different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LOL! Yes, approaching strangers "cold" is odd.

 

But... I would bet money that if you hang out in a park, people will approach and want to be all lovey and patty with your dog. THESE are the people I would lure in. I'd say, "He's very fearful, and I'm trying to work with him. Would you mind not looking him in the eye, and tossing him some treats?" In general, the people who liked dogs enough to try to make friends with my dog would love the idea of helping out a poor needy fellow. (Then there were the difficult ones: the "all dogs love me" folks who dismissed what I said and still lunged at my dog. I learned to just walk away from them and avoid them in the future.)

 

I also would coach people on body language: squatting down and averting the eyes was successful. Even squatting down and letting the dog approach from the rear, which is natural for dogs. Sitting people were even better, in Buddy's eyes - less likely to suddenly pursue him, I'd guess.

If you meet someone often enough (say, use the park a few times a day, predictably), you'll get to know people who will become "regulars" for you and the dog. At least that's how it's always worked for me and the strangers-now-friends I've picked up since getting Buddy.

 

Mary

 

Avoiding eye contact really helps - often that is very challenging to a dog. Something else that also helps is if the person ignores the dog and stands perpendicular to the dog rather than facing them.

 

One thing we learned with the treats was to have people walk by, toss a treat (but totally ignoring the dog) and then walking away - this removed the pressure from the dog of having to approach the strange person to get the treat but still keeping an association of stranger equals treat. Eventually, when the dog was willingly going to the end of the leash to get the treat, we had the person stop retreating but still tossing the treat. Gradually the treat was tossed closer and closer to the person so the dog approached, got it and retreated working up to not retreating at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Barb,

 

I assume you are referring to this behaviorist: http://www.animalbehaviorclinic.net/. You are lucky to have a certified veterinary behaviorist so near you. It is my understanding that she is the only one in the entire state of OR. (I am down the road from you in Eugene.) She has been highly recommended to me previously, although I have never consulted with her personally as my dog has not needed to see a behaviorist since he was three years old or thereabouts. $220 sounds like a reasonable fee. If you think of this as a veterinary problem then it will not seem like an excessive fee. Behavioral problems can be lethal (because dogs that bite people get destroyed) and most people have financial plans in place to treat a condition that may kill their dog. That said, the up-front costs are the bulk of the costs involved and follow-up afterwards (like phone or email contact, etc.) with the behaviorist is generally low or no cost. The medications most commonly prescribed are on the $4 prescription lists of every pharmacy that has such a program. I fill my dog's prescriptions at Fred Meyer and a three-month supply costs less than $20.

 

If you get the impression that it is necessary to be wealthy to deal with these types of behavioral problems then I am sorry to have misled you. At the time I adopted my dog I was in graduate school living on a very minimal stipend (think poverty level) -- less money than pretty much, well, everyone I knew then or since -- so it is extremely possible to do this on a budget. The trainers I mention were obedience and agility trainers who happened to be both skilled and understanding with and about dogs with "issues" -- not specialized trainers. I had already intended to train my dog in agility anyway, so this was not an additional expense on top of anything I hadn't already planned on spending. The primary expense to me was time and effort, and that's what's really necessary to put in to make something like this work.

 

My advice to you would be to make an appointment with Dr. Neilson, who will spend a considerable amount of time (even hours) evaluating your dog and will be able to provide you with a comprehensive training program to practice at home and medications if they turn out to be something that may benefit your dog. This isn't an impossible thing to do. There will probably always be a certain amount of management involved -- it's not likely that your dog will ever enjoy cocktail parties -- but as I mentioned my dog is now unremarkable in 85%-90% of situations we find ourselves in. If you love your dog and are dedicated to making your relationship work then it is very likely that you will have a successful outcome -- the owner's attitude is by far the best predictor of success.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...