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Old 08-14-2013, 07:04 PM
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Toller_08 Toller_08 is offline
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Default Defensive(?) with other dogs

Recently I've noticed a change in Journey's behaviour with other dogs. I am not that concerned about it as it is only in very specific situations and are situations I can keep her out of, but I just find it strange and would like to know if I am dealing with it properly.

Normally she is very good with other dogs. She's happy to make new friends and loves playing. However, there have been a couple of times where she's become very insecure and fearful looking and just kind of freezes while another dog sniffs her over. And now, if she's in an enclosed space (like a gated area), her first reaction is to snarl and snark at a dog who gets near. She gets very still, stares hard and then her lips curl and she'll air snap lightly. No noise. It looks to me like she's being posessive (of me? of her space?), but also like it comes out of worry/insecurity.

I know Aussies and many herding breeds aren't known to always be super friendly with other dogs, especially if the dog is invading their space. And I don't have a problem with a dog telling a rude dog off. But I do have a bit of a problem with a dog's first reaction being to snark at another dog, even from a reasonable distance, for no real reason other than she's decided that she doesn't want them near her/me/her space/whatever it is (haven't quite figured it out). She has no real reason to be worried.

A couple of scenarios:

A couple of weeks ago, sitting in my friend's camper, Journey was on the couch inside sitting with me and my friend when one of my friend's dogs came by. Journey was happy and relaxed and then I could just feel her whole body stiffen, saw her face get hard and knew she was going to react the next second. The signs aren't that glaringly obvious, but they're definitely there. I redirected her and then she was fine.

What would you do in this situation? Could it just be an insecure age thing? Could I have accidentally caused her to become this way somehow?

What I currently do is try redirecting her and giving her treats, to help her associate dogs coming near her space with positive things. So far it seems to be working, and she'll get over it pretty quickly and resume her regular happy self, but then she'll do it again another day like she never really learned that what she's doing is inappropriate. Will what I've been doing work in the long run? Is it the right or wrong thing to be doing? Anything else I could be doing?

It doesn't happen constantly, but I'd say I've seen this behaviour about 5 times now in the last 6 weeks and just don't want it to escalate. She's fine meeting dogs out and about, on leash, in parks. It's just if she feels no escape it seems. Like on the couch in the squishy camper and gated behind my desk at work or when I took her to my Dobe breeder's and a couple of dogs tried getting her to play (that's the one where she just froze but didn't snark and then she left slinking away and stayed away from the other dogs and didn't want to interact at all). She used to walk into the Doberman house like she lived there. Super happy, confident, played with everyone.

She's just acting kind of mildly insecure in general, so it's not just dog specific. And it's not anything major yet, as like I said, I've only seen it a handful of times. But it's something I want to start working on now so that it doesn't continue or get any worse at least. She's such a good, easy going, go with the flow dog. So to see these new behaviours is just odd to me and I'm really hoping it's just a stage. Most of the time she's her regular self and I'd like to help keep her that way.
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Old 08-15-2013, 11:27 AM
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Sekah Sekah is offline
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I think you're dealing with it well. I'll add in that when Cohen started becoming more anti-dog-social I would move away from her as she started to stiffen. She was normally keyed in enough to me that she'd want to follow me more than stand her ground. Cohen also understands a "be good" cue, which basically functions to say "wait this out and in a minute I'll reward you". It started as a way to bridge her unease with rude dogs, but has become quite helpful in a number of situations.

Cohen's natural state around strange dogs is that of uncertainty and anxiety, so I've just been working to have her tolerate her anxiety until I can remedy the situation, rather than being concerned about making her more social.

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Old 08-15-2013, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Toller_08 View Post
She has no real reason to be worried...

...It's just if she feels no escape it seems.
That could be what she's worried about.

Having said that, I think you're handling it appropriately: Being alert to her body language, redirecting before she reacts, and building good associations with treats seems reasonable to me. And just be aware that she apparently doesn't like to feel cornered and avoid those situations as much as possible.

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Old 08-15-2013, 01:14 PM
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k9krazee k9krazee is offline
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Ya know, Crossbone does something very similar when he's uncomfortable or in a confined area.

When he meets most dogs he's happy, spinning and play bowing - but large, rude dogs or when he's on leash feeling trapped, particularly, he'll snap first and play bow secondly. Now it did recently escalate to his first response with scary people as well, seemingly out of nowhere, which sucks and we're dealing with. We are working diligently on not letting him feel uncomfortable and only making very short positive experiences around people and redirecting if we see the slightest hint of nervousness.

I think you're doing all the right things! But I'll keep an eye on this thread for further ideas

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Old 08-15-2013, 01:21 PM
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Toller_08 Toller_08 is offline
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Thanks guys!

Glad to hear that I am doing things similarly to what others would do. :-)

Yeah, I think it is confinement/no escape that concerns her. I just thought it was odd that she just started this, as she hasn't had a bad experience or anything to cause her to worry, so it confuses me as to why she's worried now. But, dogs will be dogs and do weird things I suppose.
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Old 08-15-2013, 03:21 PM
SaraB SaraB is offline
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That's exactly what I would do in that situation!

Another good one is Leslie McDevitt's Look At That game, she explains it very well in her book Control Unleashed. Generally, if there is something uncomfortable going on for one of my dogs (Zuma is usually the one who reacts to other dogs), I get them playing LAT and they immediately focus on the game rather than the trigger. Putting scary situations into a predictable structure really does help (like Cohen's be good cue, a predictable structure).

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