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Old 08-27-2006, 12:59 PM
sammi sammi is offline
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Default barking at boys & gowling

Sammi is a one-year-old shepard mix we got from the pound when she was 3 months old.

We spent two weeks earlier in August with my sister and her kids and Sammi barked almost constantly at my brother-in-law and my two nephews (both very tall teenagers). When they were seated she might eventually calm down, but when they came into the house, or got up to leave, she would go after them barking and sometimes growling, like she was going to bite them. This went on for two weeks.

I have two 8-year-olds who can sometimes be a little overbearing, but she plays with them easily, and she seems to love my niece to no end, wanting to jump up and kiss her all the time. (the sister of the nephews)

Sammi is generally timid but has adjusted well to our family, except maybe my husband who she still barks at when he leaves for work in the middle of the day.

We are supposed to visit again over the Labor Day weekend, and I am already dreading her behavior.

Sammi's "mom"
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Old 08-27-2006, 01:12 PM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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First of all, keep her on a leash. She must be kept under control. Don't punish her for growling. This is her communication and without it, she will learn to go straight for the bite. It sounds like she is probably undersocialized. She needs to associate these people with good things. They need to be turned into good things instead of bad things. They can toss her treats (but NOT when she's in the act of barking and growling) Don't talk to her, sooth her or otherwise give her any attention (reinforcement) for this behavior.

A desensatization program needs to be implimented...where by she is not forced to be up too close to what she is afraid of or worried about and reinforced for "good" behavior. And gradually decreasing the distance between herself and these people...never overwhelming her, but going gradually. This needs to be practiced with all kinds of people every day.

If you are nervous and dreading the situation, don't let on to her. Be confident and act like everything is just honky dory. Give her a little space and don't let anyone pay attention to her when she's nervous.

If she did not have ample socialization before 12 weeks of age or so, it is very difficult to re-coup that window of time. That's when their personalities are being formed up. So, try to socialize her now, but do so gradually, make it pleasant, no punishment, no coddling for her worried behavior.

The best thing would be to find a reputable, certified behaviorist who uses posititve training methods to help you. Aggression is nothing to take lightly. Dogs do whatever works. It can escalate, especially when the dog finds out it works. She barks, they go away.

There are some other exercises you can do as well....like teaching her that when she doesn't bark and growl, they go away. (if that's what she wants) Get someone to practice that with you. Try distracting her...get her to look at you holding a treat up by your face. If she is quiet for 3 seconds, give a treat and ask the nephews to walk further away while she's still quiet and "polite." Teach her that it's better for her when they're a little closer. You can get other people to help you with this when they're not there. But I highly recommend you get some hands on help.

Good luck.
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