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arf2184

Behavior Concern - Staring at other dogs

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Background - Meg (5 years old) was a rescue that was dog reactive (fearful, not aggressive) in certain situations, especially on leash. She was also shy of people. She's improved tremendously over the past three years and has pretty much taken a 180. Now she wants to say hello to all people (and get them to throw a toy for her). I've worked hard to make all her dog interactions good ones. Now she wants to say hi to some dogs...bouncy or out of control dogs she ignores and makes sure to keep a good distance from but does not react too. She doesn't play with other dogs unless she really gets to know them...mostly she just wants to sniff and be done with them, which is perfect.

 

New Concern - The past couple of weeks she's started a new behavior with regards to other dogs. She's done it off leash about 4 or 5 times. It started at the beach. She's off leash when we go swimming and this is at a beach where the other dogs come and go (often off leash too). The beach is not crowded and big enough to where most people/dogs just keep their distance.

 

Meg's new behavior has potential to cause problems though. She moves towards a dog (not running, but moving fast) until she's maybe 20-30 feet away and then lies down and stares...that intense Border Collie stare that makes other dogs uncomfortable. Meg has a very good recall. At this point I've just been calling her back to me when she starts staring. She has called off quickly each time, but she seems to be downing and staring more often. She also did it twice today while out on a walk (on leash). As we approached another dog coming the opposite direction, she downed and stared. Both times it happened to be dogs she's met several times, so I just called her to heel position and let her off leash to go say hi (she does much better off leash when greeting dogs and the other dogs were already off leash too). She approached and sniffed the dogs without anymore staring and all was well.

 

Staring is not how I want her to greet other dogs, but I'm not sure how to put a stop to it. I don't want her to stare at the wrong dog and get attacked and set her back or worse. Any suggestions?

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My dogs do it to each other. It's part of their "play" but they are not allowed to do it to stranger dogs. Pam's right it can cause fights. Get a call off on your dog.

If my pup starts to do this to a dog she doesn't know I call her off. "that'll do Faye" break the stare and redirect her to do something else.

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When I read the subject line, I was thinking about how my reactive dog would go ballistic if another dog stared at him. Direct eye contact is very threatening to him.

 

BUT... when you described your dog's behavior, I thought, "Oh, Buddy would like that dog." The approach-lie-down-stare-wait thing seems to be a very indirect invitation to play, and Buddy generally responds with a rolicking round of play when another dog acts that way. (Or... he did when he was younger. He doesn't play much now.)

 

Seems like your girl has started enjoying dogs enough to want to play with them, which is good. I'm not sure I'd discourage the behavior if it doesn't seem to be causing trouble, and she's only doing it with dogs she has played with in the past. If my dog can interpret it as happy-friendly-safe, I'd think a more "normal" dog could, too.

 

Just my interpretation. Smarter folks may have deeper insight.

 

Mary

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Mary, that's a great point, when Al would stare, he'd stand up, lower his head and tail and generally proceed to stare the other dog down. It clearly made the other dog uncomfortable and I corrected him. He seemed to grow out of it (it was between 7 and 8 months that he went through this - so perhaps it was some how connected with a fear period). I hadn't thought of an invitation to play, judging by the other dogs reaction on my end.

 

Rebecca

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Mary, that's a great point, when Al would stare, he'd stand up, lower his head and tail and generally proceed to stare the other dog down. It clearly made the other dog uncomfortable and I corrected him. He seemed to grow out of it (it was between 7 and 8 months that he went through this - so perhaps it was some how connected with a fear period). I hadn't thought of an invitation to play, judging by the other dogs reaction on my end.

Rebecca

Exactly, Rebecca - that "stand with lowered head and stare" thing is very intimidating, I think. The body language difference in the lie down clearly says something different to MY dog at least.

 

Mary

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She does call off easily and as soon as I see her I call her back. However, this seems to be her new way of greeting other dogs from a distance. On one hand, its much better than the barking panicked reaction she sometimes used to have. On the other, not all other dogs are going to like being stared at.

 

The down has me a bit confused. It could be a play invitation, though in the past she usually turns her rear to other dogs and tries to get them to play chase. I don't *think* she's trying to intimidate...that's not her personality (though she's changing all the time so perhaps I should say it hasn't been her personality up to this point). I am most concerned about how other dogs might react and how to get her to go back to not doing this at all.

 

At this point, most dogs have ignored her stare (they've all been well behaved dogs though). Only one so far has returned her stare, clearly trying to intimidate her. I called Meg to me and both dogs went on peacefully ignoring each other. However I'm not always around and when she's out with my Dad or other family members who are not as good at reading her (or other dogs) this has potential to end badly. So I think I would like to put a stop to it, but at the same time, I don't want to set her back thinking she shouldn't try to play with other dogs if that is what she's doing. Thus far simply calling her off each time is not discouraging the behavior overall. She'll stop at that moment, but she is doing it more often and in different situations.

 

If she is trying to get other dogs to play, it has not worked. Perhaps its because I keep calling her away, or perhaps the other dogs are intimidated by her stare, or maybe they just aren't interested, but she has not had any come play with her following a 'down and stare'.

 

**confused**

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How intense is her stare, is the rest of her body language relaxed? My late Brody would run towards another dog then lie down a good distance away and look towards them, but he was looking, his body language friendly if the other dog started coming towards him then he would go and meet and greet if things did not look good we called him back, or if the other dog ignored him he would give up. He was a very friendly dog who liked to say hi to everyone dogs and humans but he never rushed over always used the stop and down technique to introduce himself to other dogs.

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Maggie did this too but I just redirected her attention. She stopped doing it after a few months. Every now and then she'll start doing it again and I'll just give the "leave it" command and she stops.

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My pitbull used to do this when she was younger. I found this to be very confusing.

 

I think that it was calming signal directed at the approaching dog

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I'm a little confused, are you thinking staring or laying down is calming? I might not have this right, but isn't looking at another dog square considered rude? Bending out, licking lips, yawning, relaxing face muscles, and looking away are generally on my list of polite pup behaviors. The combination of lay down and stare is probably along the lines of, "I really want to play with you, but I'm really not particularly confident, so please come play, only don't come too fast or crazy" But, like alligande said, we need to know more about the posture to say for sure.

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My dogs lying down with a stare is not a calming signal. Not for my dogs. It's more a bc stare that they've turned into a chase game. No one gets hurt but that's because they know the game. I wouldn't let my dogs play that game with stranger dogs. It's a pushy game. Lots of stupid doggy rules that they have. so a dog coming into the game that didn't know the rules could get in trouble.

 

The other day my girls were playing in the hose. They are very hosey. My LGD tried to get in on it and got jumped for not following the rules. So now I have to put one or the other up when the hose it out. It could of got ugly except my LGD is the sweetest girl I know and rolled over when they jumped on her. This was a new interaction with the lgd. She normally doesn't play with the black dogs. She watches and gets lovies from me instead of playing with the crazy blackdogs.

 

My dogs just don't play well with others unless they are border collies that already know how to play in a pack situation. general population pet dogs don't know the rules so mine won't play or won't play nice.

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Gibbs had a young friend over a few months ago, a cute American Bulldog named Sadie. The two of them first sniffed each other politely, then Sadie laid down and averted her head just a bit. There was a brief pause, and then we were off to the races. It was pretty exciting.

 

I noticed that every time there was a break in the action, one of the dogs, (they seemed to be taking turns) would lay down and turn their head away just that little bit. After a moment of catching their breath, it would all start again.

 

It was subtle but definite, that turning away for a minute. I'd like to hear more about the posture, too. Was it loose or tense? When I see dogs playing well, to me there is a very relaxed feel to the movements. When I see stiffness, hyper-focus, it's time to intervene.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs, who loves a good romp

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Dear Ms. Arf2184,

 

This seems to me a wonderful opportunity to advance your dog reading skills. Pay attention to how the other dog's are reading your dog's behavior and behave accordingly. Dog-speak is their native tongue.

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Ms. Arf2184,

 

This seems to me a wonderful opportunity to advance your dog reading skills. Pay attention to how the other dog's are reading your dog's behavior and behave accordingly. Dog-speak is their native tongue.

 

Donald McCaig

It's good to be aware that a lot of dogs find a stare deeply unsettling and threatening but you are right, not all dogs will and they can tell you a lot about your own dog's intentions.

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Yeah - the only reason I read the "lie-wait-look" thing as nonthreatening is because I watched my dog read it that way.

 

It seems to me as though the lying dog was giving my dog some space and room to figure out if he wanted to engage. In that way, it seemed to feel much safer to Buddy than the "normal" approach of dogs we met off-leash: sudden, bounding, boisterous invasion of space. I almost want to say that the lying dog was "testing the waters," and that he didn't initiate play until he got some kind of a signal from Buddy (slight 'play bow' dart?) that he was willing. I wish I could engage the behavior again, to watch both the lying dog and my dog.

 

I do know that for my dog, a "down" posture from a human, dog, or cat is much less threatening than an "up" posture. When strange humans come in my house, Buddy just wants them to SIT DOWN, dammit. If they'd lie flat on their backs on the floor, he'd be even happier. Sitting means no looming, and I'm guessing that for my former street dog, it means less chance of getting grabbed or hit - humans just aren't fast enough to get up from a sitting position to catch a loose dog.

 

Having said that, though, I've only seen maybe 4 or 5 dogs do that "lie-wait-stare" thing over the course of eight years. So, it doesn't seem to be an essential canine skill.

 

Mary

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I have had 2 dogs that have done this. The first was a female spaniel/chow/? mix. She would see another dog coming and lower her head and slowly walk towards the dog and then lie down and wait. When the other dog got just about up to her, she would jump up and snap at them. It was only certain dogs she would do it to, others she would greet a bit more normally. (She would also approach people and just as they reached to pet her snap at them - as if at the last second she got nervous, but was not nervous enough not to approach).

The second dog that has done this is hubby's male aussie. He will see a particular dog and then start "stalking" it, walking slowly towards it, head level with his body, tail nubbin up, hackles up, and then go into a down and stare at the dog. By this time the other dog has always noticed him. Typically as the other dog approaches, he will suddenly get up and quickly approach the other dog, starting very low and then as he gets up to them he gets very tall and approaches them slightly to the side and sniffs etc. His hackles are always up and he is always somewhat stiff. He is not being playful when he does this and again its only some dogs that get this approach. His greeting of the dog doesn't seem any different than when he normally approaches.

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I was hiking in a popular off leash area with my BC several months ago when a black lab (yes, a *lab*) did exactly what you described Meg doing. I stopped dead in my tracks and told my dog to do the same so as to assess the situation. The other owner noticed my reaction and quickly called out "He has lots of herding dog friends... he thinks he's one of them." She assured me he was trying to initiate play, so I allowed Camden to approach. It was *game on* once my guy got up to the lab. I ended up chatting with the other owner for several minutes as the two were having such a good time playing we felt bad about going our separate ways.

 

I just wanted to share my experience with approaching a dog who (it sounds like from what you have described) was acting like Meg. It was ALL border collie... a firm down, hard stare and slightly stiff body... but the dog really just wanted to play. I am still utterly confused that it was a lab... but I guess his furry friends rubbed off on him?

 

Having said that, i also understand wanting to deter the behavior, even if it is her attempt to initiate play. It sure doesn't *look* very friendly and I'd be worried another dog might not read it as such. This topic is almost two months old now, I'm curious to hear how is she coming along with this behavior. Any updates?

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