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Old 12-20-2012, 07:34 PM
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Fran101 Fran101 is offline
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Default Worried about puppy's dog social skills

I'm worried about Merlin when it comes to other dogs. I'm trying to not worry.. but I do.
He is getting a lot better with people, I'm not worried about him there.. he goes up, he wiggles butt, he says hello and likes just about everyone. He is also great in new environments (trains, noises, etc.. he rocks it)

but when it comes to dogs.. ugh. I'm so worried. He avoids dogs mostly, when pushed, hides behind my legs (or somebodies legs) and growls/snaps.

He NEEDS to learn how to be OK with other dogs coming up to him and trying to play. I work at a dog store! I live in a city with dogs everywhere.. parks are our main source of exercise/green space.. I don't need him to PLAY with other dogs, he doesn't need to be the love everyone dogpark dog, but snapping/growling is NOT ok.

He met the friendliest little doodle puppy today right around his age and growled and snapped at her. I just feel bad
He is ok with a FEW calmer adult dogs. but even then.. he isn't playing. I consider it a success for him to just be OK with them.

I just would like to nip this in the butt before it gets worse and turns into a reactivity problem.
What do I do once he does growl/snap? remove him? let him deal? let him hide behind my legs? don't?

and pro-actively.. how do I go about socializing him with other dogs in a positive way?


Disclaimer: I work for Trupanion and love it/our policy! But I do not speak for the company or as the company.

Last edited by Fran101; 12-20-2012 at 07:50 PM.
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Old 12-20-2012, 07:55 PM
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Maxy24 Maxy24 is offline
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I would not let dogs approach him at all, he can go up to them and go away from them, but they cannot pursue him. Do not try to make him socialize, it is the worst thing you can do for a nervous dog, he'll start anticipating a forced interaction whenever he sees a dog and will get worse or even reactive. Have you tried small dogs? When you have him in the store can he be in a play pen or behind a gate? That way he can go up to the pen and sniff but can retreat when he wants without the dogs being able to follow him. That will help him feel safe and comfortable with the dogs.

I would try not to put him in a situation where he feels the need to growl or snap but if it happens I'd quickly encourage him to follow you away from the other dog so he knows he can always get away and doesn't have to try and scare the dog off.

If you let him go up and sniff a dog let him leave the second you see he wants to, very short interactions will make him feel better so he will feel better about getting into interactions in the first place. you don't want all of his interactions ending with him feeling uncomfortable or he'll try avoiding them altogether.

Just go slow, does anyone at the store you work with (or anyone you know) have a gentle respectful dog he could get to know?

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Old 12-20-2012, 08:00 PM
stardogs stardogs is offline
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Do you have any calm adult dogs he can go on walks with and eventually just hang out with? IME it helps to start out with just meeting the calm adults in low pressure settings - let the puppy learn that he doesn't have to worry about space invaders first, THEN when he's confident, they can be reintroduced sloooowly.

It's not unusual for pups that aren't 100% sure about other dogs who are in your face to react like you describe and, unfortunately, every time a dog or pup ignores his body language and invades his bubble he's learning that other dogs are rude and that subtle posturing doesn't work so he'll be more apt to react again in an attempt to drive them away.
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:02 PM
emc emc is offline
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That's great advice! I have an on going socializing program with my chihuahua, both with people and dogs.
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:07 PM
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sassafras sassafras is offline
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Originally Posted by Maxy24 View Post
I would not let dogs approach him at all, he can go up to them and go away from them, but they cannot pursue him.
I think this is a great starting place. Also consider just letting him sit and watch some other dogs interacting/playing behind a gate or something while you are rewarding calm behavior (sort of like LAT, but without directing him). Some dogs just need to take stuff in and give it a think before they're ready for it close up. Then you can ease into some one on one interactions as others have suggested.

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Old 12-20-2012, 08:10 PM
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Shai Shai is offline
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I would just desensitize him like it was any other random thing he was nervous about. Treat it like he is afraid of, say, billowing plastic bags.

Most importantly, written in large friendly letters: DON'T PANIC.
(carrying a towel is optional)

Second most importantly: don't force interactions. But if they do happen (someone's errant nutjob flies up in his face) just calmly step between or turn and walk away with him. He's a baby and needs to know you have his back and are in control of the situation. Don't get loud or mad at the other dog/person or whatever...just treat it like it's no big deal while ending the interaction.

Whenever possible, if a dog walks into sight or into the store or in any other way enters his sphere of awareness (doesn't have to be close...preferably not close at first), mark and reward him. Dogs appearing = good stuff. Mom's attention, food, whatever. I would avoid getting excited and cheering him or engaging him with a toy just because you don't want a heightened arousal state...just a calm sort of "Oh hey that was nice."

If other dogs make him nervous, then being cool around calm passive older dogs is a success. Treat it like one. Recruit these dogs, and try working your guy around him...simple known cues with a high reinforcement rate are great for this. Or just let him wander or relax and get a little massage in their presence. Whatever he enjoys.

Webster is a social idiot and can't read other dogs very well. He also has a "kick me" sign on him somewhere that makes strange dogs want to eat him. As a result his tendency was to go on the offensive before they could...not an attack but he would get tense and growl and air snap. This approach is basically what worked for him. Once he realized that --- (1) He was not expected to interact with a dog unless he wanted to (2) The presence of other dogs especially strange dogs just means there's probably a opportunity for him to earn something he wants and (3) That I was in control of the situation --- then he relaxed and now we can go through crowded agility trials and whatever else and he's fine. If he forgets then I tell him to heel which gives him something to focus on and he can re-center himself and then he's fine even when released. Your little guy is much younger and likely is equipped with a much better genetic package. It will be okay. You're being proactive and you will be calm and teach him to be the same.

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Old 12-20-2012, 08:25 PM
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Linds Linds is offline
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Ditto what Shai said. Especially rewarding him being passive.

And not panicking. Don't push, don't get weird about it. Herding dogs pick up on that stuff and get just as weird. Be calm but rewarding.
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:37 PM
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Laurelin Laurelin is offline
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My thoughts....

1. Pups can go through some weird periods. Mia had one really bad one shortly after I got her (around 16 weeks?) where she became Cujo on a leash. Reactive growling, barking, etc on the end of her leash. I was so worried about it then about a week later that behavior vanished.

2. I would definitely NOT force interactions. Does he go to the store? If so, I' make sure other dogs couldn't go up to him. I would try to maximize the instances where he's around other dogs and the other dog doesn't invade his space. And then reward for that.

The more classes I took with Mia where she's around other dogs, the more relaxed Mia became around other dogs. I think it's important for them to know that it's ok and that other dogs are ok to be around and nothing scary is going to happen. I give my dogs time and usually they will want to interact once they get a better feel for the other dog.

3. It is very normal for some dogs to not like other dogs getting in their face. Neither of mine do, but they can still be around other dogs just fine in controlled settings. Face to face meetings where the other dog keeps insisting on playing do not go well. My dogs are around other dogs a lot. It could be that he is just not going to be a very doggy dog. doesn't mean he won't be stable around other dogs though.

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Old 12-20-2012, 10:06 PM
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Also, while I haven't dealt with my dogs being nervous around other dogs as adults both Traveler and Didgie to varying extends were gun shy around strange dogs as puppies. Traveler ran screaming into someone's lap and Didgie dropped to her belly.

And, I wanted to say that while Kaylee was fine with dogs she was terrified of people and like Laur said, dog classes were the best thing I ever did with her. She got to be around a bunch of people that DIDN"T care about her and weren't trying to make her like them. They just were there. She got to the point where she would go up and solicit attention when before she would shy as far away as she could. I think that carries over to being nervous around dogs. It helps so much if they are around dogs that are just doing their thing and don't need to be in his business.
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Old 12-20-2012, 10:45 PM
SaraB SaraB is offline
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Everything Shai said. The most important thing is that he understands that you are in control of the situation and you will protect him from scary situations.

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