Being Assertive?

Airn

New Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2012
Messages
1,044
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
Bentonville, AR
#1
So Gwen and I have signed up for this dog behavioral course. So far it's been interesting. I have no prior classes to base this one off of but I'm pretty sure it's not a normal class.

Anyway, during the last class we were learning how to focus and walk with a purpose to help our fearful or aggressive dogs. (This class is mostly about socialization/behavior/etc, not a training class or obedience class.) I'm trying to improve my walk and focus but the trainer mentioned that Gwen and I are a lot alike: We're both not very (at all, really) assertive. She gave me some tips but I'm still a bit confused on the whole idea.

We did an exercise that involved her approaching, intending to take Gwen away. She wanted me to look intimidating (I guess?) enough so that I would persuade her not to approach. Apparently I suck at looking intimating and she took Gwen.

It's obvious that she has much more 'control' over her dogs and I certainly would not approach her if she didn't want me to. But I'm just not a very 'assertive' person.

Here's my real issue. I don't want to be unapproachable. I am simply not an intimidating person. But Gwen needs me to be more in charge. Does anyone have tips on how to be in charge for your dog, but not a total asshole? :rolleyes:

And could someone who has more experience (maybe with training others) give their input on this whole idea?
 

milos_mommy

Active Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2006
Messages
15,349
Likes
0
Points
36
#3
It sounds like, based on the purpose of the class, the idea behind you being more assertive or intimidating is so that YOU can be more in control of who's approaching your dog. I don't know if you're taking this class because Gwen is fearful? But a dog that is fearful but not very assertive needs a handler who can assert that their dog needs space.

Especially for a dog who is fearful but can't really display it well in very blatant terms the average person can read...having an owner who is also too mellow to say "please don't approach my dog", and has some Joe Schmo squealing "PUPPPPPYYY" and petting them, is the kind of dog that will snap.
The same applies to people walking dogs, too, who are like "OH FIDO SAY HI A NEW FRIEND" as they let out their leash and walk their dog into your's face.


Why are you taking this class? Is Gwen shy with strange people or dogs?

I assume what the instructor is getting at is that you need to be calm enough not to upset Gwen, but get a stranger to realize rushing up to a strange dog is rude and stupid. Keep your body language somewhat relaxed (don't yank Gwen into you on leash), but step in front of her or calmly and quickly get her behind you, and say firmly "do not approach my dog, she is shy". Putting up your hand for emphasize is a good idea, too.
 

Airn

New Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2012
Messages
1,044
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
Bentonville, AR
#4
What sort of issues does Gwen have that you are hoping to improve?
She's fearful around new people and with certain dogs. She gets very anxious when meeting new dogs and whines a lot. She won't focus on anything but that dog she wants to meet and whining. However, she usually doesn't LIKE the dog she seemingly wants to meet. She usually sniffs and quickly growls and fluffs up.

I really just want to work on her confidence overall. In meeting new people, new dogs, in new situations. I figured it couldn't hurt. I'm not expecting her to want to be best friends with everyone, though.

I'm realizing my lack of experience is inhibiting her from moving forward in a lot of aspects. I just don't know where to go. I'm hoping this class helps that.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2011
Messages
6,405
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Minnesota
#5
I'm not a very assertive or intimidating person, either, but you don't have to Hulk out to keep people from approaching your dog or communicate to your dog that you've got their back.

I usually simply body block people, which can be done very subtly - you don't have to be a linebacker, just calmly keep yourself between an approaching person and your dog. Or I'll turn and walk away. If people don't get it, I say NO, THANK YOU! with one hand up in a "stop" gesture.

I think I do have a pretty mean "resting bitch face", though, so that probably helps me.
 

BostonBanker

Active Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
8,854
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Vermont
#7
I am on my phone right now; I will be happy to explain what I have done in regards to Meg's issues (only dog related) when I get home. I will say that I really dislike the trainer's way of working on this. Gwen is nervous around new people, and she walked up to you and took Gwen away from you to prove a point? That may be Gwen's worst nightmare and she made it happen. She could have role played it without a dog.
 

Sekah

The Monster.
Joined
Feb 6, 2011
Messages
1,339
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
Toronto
#8
I go passive aggressive. I'll ask for focus from Cohen and won't break my focus from her with others approaching. It's normally pretty obvious that I'm more interested in the dog than whoever is in front of me. Sometimes I'll give Cohen the "go behind" cue and have her hang out behind me while I pop treats and body block any approachers. I don't often have to do this.
 

Airn

New Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2012
Messages
1,044
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
Bentonville, AR
#9
I'm horrible at explaining the situation.

Gwen is uncomfortable with new people but she (usually) quickly warms up. She wasn't nervous around the trainer and the trainer didn't just grab Gwen and walk off. She approaching me to make ME realize that I'm not assertive.

Thanks for the suggestions and Boston, I'd like to hear your's when you're able to.

I have learned a lot about body blocking. I didn't realize how effective it was until I started this class. I've also started paying more attention to what I'm doing. I suppose I subconsciously do a lot of things that aren't really beneficial to training. I'm working on being more consistent.

I will work on my confidence as well and try to be more natural about it. I don't really like being put on the spot. It was pretty nerve wracking proving that I can confidently walk my dog.

I believe her purpose for be being more assertive is more about showing Gwen that I'm in charge. Not in a "I'm the alpha" sort of way, but because Gwen is so unsure of herself and what to do. (And not just when people are approaching us.) Basically, if I feel more confident and in control, Gwen will feel more confident and trust in me.

While I don't think Gwen will ever be super friendly, I do think with some (proper) training, she can overcome a lot of her fear issues. There is another dog in the class who is MUCH worse, but I do remember when Gwen was like that. It amazes me how far she's already come.
 

Moth

Mild and Slightly Nutty
Joined
May 9, 2011
Messages
5,039
Likes
2
Points
38
Location
Madison, WI
#10
One of my previous dogs had issues with fear and confindence.

Like Sass said using your body and placing yourself between Gwen and a stranger is the best way to help Gwen to control her space for her.

I used to do this all the time since my dog happened to be a cute, fluffy, cocker spaniel that made people go "Eeeee I needs to pet the puppy".

If I permitted contact it was because Patton showed interest, and the human in question had to meet Patton by my rules. I would explain why and tell them what to do. Like turning slightly sideways rather than facing him straight on. Crouching to be on his level and to never ever reach over his head. Usually there would also be lots of treats :)

You are absolutely right in thinking that it is about Gwen knowing you are in control of the situation that makes her uncertain and you being in control making her feel more confident and comfortable.
 

DJEtzel

Active Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2010
Messages
3,267
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Kalamazoo, MI
#11
I think I understand what you're talking about very well.

In all of our CGC, puppy, and basic obedience classes, we teach owners this with their dogs/puppies and we do the same thing your instructor did, to prove a point and help them proof it.

MOST PEOPLE AREN'T GOOD AT THIS. YOU AREN'T THE ONLY ONE. DON'T WORRY.

I'm apparently the best at this, so if I'm assisting or in a class, the trainer points me out for "what to do".

Body blocking is where it has to start. If you take longer than .02 seconds to start saying no as someone approaches, the dog is going to react (greet or retreat) and they're going in for the pet/smush.

Someone's approaching, whether they ask or not (some won't, you need to recognize the distance and interest of someone about to "pounce" in case they don't use their words) once they get to that point you can turn into Gwen while hand motioning a sit, and say "Yeah, hang on just a moment, we're working on some therapy dog training."

No one wants to ruin your therapy dog. They'll say "Oh! Okay!" and once she is ok and they have stopped approaching, you can squat next to her and say "Ok, she's a little shy, you can say hi, but touch her _____ (insert location or style of petting here)"

Seriously, find some friends and practice this. SORRY HANG ON MY DOG IS IN TRAINING is basically all you have to say as you body block her and people will stop and understand (or act like they do) :p

Gwen's confidence will probably increase a lot if you do this every time because she'll know you're going to control the situation. And feel free to say "Sorry she's in training and we're working on something else right now" if you can tell she's not comfortable at that moment to be approached. Keep greetings short and sweet. 5-7 seconds and it's a "thank you very much, we need to be moving on." and you leave with a treat for Gwen. :)
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2011
Messages
6,405
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Minnesota
#12
Once you get over the ingrained desire not to be rude, it will get easier. And the more you do it without anything awful happening, the better you'll get.

When I body block, I very pointedly also avoid eye contact/act as if I'm ignoring them. Most people get it, honestly, and you don't have to be very assertive at all for it to work.
 

Dogdragoness

Happy Halloween!!
Joined
May 31, 2012
Messages
4,169
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Gillett/Flower Mound TX
#13
I'm not a very assertive or intimidating person, either, but you don't have to Hulk out to keep people from approaching your dog or communicate to your dog that you've got their back.

I usually simply body block people, which can be done very subtly - you don't have to be a linebacker, just calmly keep yourself between an approaching person and your dog. Or I'll turn and walk away. If people don't get it, I say NO, THANK YOU! with one hand up in a "stop" gesture.

I think I do have a pretty mean "resting bitch face", though, so that probably helps me.
Yeah **** the public I say ... What do I look like? A petting zoo? :/
 

BostonBanker

Active Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
8,854
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Vermont
#14
Other people have mostly hit on the stuff I was going to say, although I have to say that I've been lucky and have never had to really be rude with anyone.

I'm not a normally assertive person by nature, and I have some issues socially that make it really hard for me to stand up to people. It didn't help that I spent at least a year with Meg thinking things like "Meg has dog issues", "I need to teach Meg to be better with other dogs", and "I should let the dogs work it out". It took a huge shift in my way of thinking to get to the point where I could start dealing with the situation productively.

A few of the things that helped me were simply seeing other people handle their dogs in certain ways. The easiest thing to share (and I expect you have seen this article, which I know doesn't have to do with your issues so much but bear with me) is this article:
http://suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

In particular, this line, which I'm not sure I really processed the first few times I had seen the article:
To my way of thinking, a critical part of the relationships I have with my animals is this promise: "I will protect you." And to the best of my abilities, I do not violate this promise in any way.
It was like flipping a switch for me. I am not good about standing up for myself. I am much better at standing up for my dogs. Meg doesn't need to be okay with other dogs (and Gusto doesn't need to socialize with people; although he's not nervous around them, he doesn't enjoy strangers petting him). Meg needs to understand that I won't let dogs bother her. As soon as I started realizing that, she stopped being on the offense all the time. In many situations, you would never know she has dog issues. Agility was a huge help for us, because agility people don't let their dogs bother yours generally. Meg is never reactive at trials, because she's learned she doesn't have to look out for trouble.

I don't know, I don't even see it as being assertive. I simply speak up, and people generally listen. I've heard horror stories here about people refusing to hear no, but I've never once encountered it in my own life. If people come at me and Meg with a dog on leash, I simply say "She's not going to be nice" and move away while feeding Meg if I have treats. If their dog is off leash and they are yelling the popular "It's okay, he's friendly" I try saying "she's not" in hopes that they will have enough control to call the dog away. If they don't (they don't), I will keep Meg on a short leash next to me and, if I'm able to do it quickly enough, throw treats at the other dog's head. That often derails them. Once in a while (including this weekend) I do have to resort to stomping at the other dog and telling it to "git" or pushing the other dog away with my foot.

Maybe people in our region are just more respectful. I don't have to get rude or particularly assertive. I have my little phrases I use with both dogs, like Meg's above (or with Gusto, when people want to pet him "Sorry, he's a terrible snob. He doesn't really like strangers touching him."), and that's that.
 

Airn

New Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2012
Messages
1,044
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
Bentonville, AR
#15
Other people have mostly hit on the stuff I was going to say, although I have to say that I've been lucky and have never had to really be rude with anyone.

I'm not a normally assertive person by nature, and I have some issues socially that make it really hard for me to stand up to people. It didn't help that I spent at least a year with Meg thinking things like "Meg has dog issues", "I need to teach Meg to be better with other dogs", and "I should let the dogs work it out". It took a huge shift in my way of thinking to get to the point where I could start dealing with the situation productively.

A few of the things that helped me were simply seeing other people handle their dogs in certain ways. The easiest thing to share (and I expect you have seen this article, which I know doesn't have to do with your issues so much but bear with me) is this article:
http://suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

In particular, this line, which I'm not sure I really processed the first few times I had seen the article:


It was like flipping a switch for me. I am not good about standing up for myself. I am much better at standing up for my dogs. Meg doesn't need to be okay with other dogs (and Gusto doesn't need to socialize with people; although he's not nervous around them, he doesn't enjoy strangers petting him). Meg needs to understand that I won't let dogs bother her. As soon as I started realizing that, she stopped being on the offense all the time. In many situations, you would never know she has dog issues. Agility was a huge help for us, because agility people don't let their dogs bother yours generally. Meg is never reactive at trials, because she's learned she doesn't have to look out for trouble.

I don't know, I don't even see it as being assertive. I simply speak up, and people generally listen. I've heard horror stories here about people refusing to hear no, but I've never once encountered it in my own life. If people come at me and Meg with a dog on leash, I simply say "She's not going to be nice" and move away while feeding Meg if I have treats. If their dog is off leash and they are yelling the popular "It's okay, he's friendly" I try saying "she's not" in hopes that they will have enough control to call the dog away. If they don't (they don't), I will keep Meg on a short leash next to me and, if I'm able to do it quickly enough, throw treats at the other dog's head. That often derails them. Once in a while (including this weekend) I do have to resort to stomping at the other dog and telling it to "git" or pushing the other dog away with my foot.

Maybe people in our region are just more respectful. I don't have to get rude or particularly assertive. I have my little phrases I use with both dogs, like Meg's above (or with Gusto, when people want to pet him "Sorry, he's a terrible snob. He doesn't really like strangers touching him."), and that's that.
The idea of trust was something I didn't really take seriously. I knew Gwen looked to me for direction but until recently I didn't realize how important that was. She's a fairly soft dog. If something negative happens, it's usually a long recovery. I've learned that she is more likely to bounce back if I let her know it's safe. (Introducing a new cat.)

I think the dog people in the area are decent. I've started to get involved in the community and everyone's pretty understanding. Our biggest and most realistic issue is the local children. They flat out do not listen to me. I have to avoid certain areas because they just run up to us, as I'm saying she's shy and dragging her away. I wish I didn't have to avoid certain times or areas but evidently these kids aren't very respectful.

I really appreciate all the input. I'm excited for our next class. Between class 1 and 2 Gwen has already improved (as well as myself) and I hope it continues. I'm almost glad that Gwen isn't perfect. I doubt we would have the bond that we have if she had come to me without any of her issues. What doesn't kill you and all that.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2011
Messages
6,405
Likes
0
Points
36
Location
Minnesota
#16
Yea kids are a whole different thing. I go from outstretched "stop" hand signal to NO I SAID NO pretty quick, a lot of times they're so surprised that they do stop.
 

Babyblue5290

Happy Meal. Yum.
Joined
Feb 26, 2005
Messages
16,079
Likes
0
Points
0
#17
Everyone else said everthing I was going to say. :p So I won't repeat, but wanted to let you know you are definitely not alone in this! I had a HUGE problem with this when Art was having issues in the beginning, but looking at it as protecting your dog, not yourself, is what really helped me. Hang in there! :)

I've even turned a complete 180 before saying "sorry he's training" and waving as I walked away when someone was looking at Art with the "OMG dog!" eyes on a narrow path. I didn't even feel bad when before it would've horrified me lol :p


Yea kids are a whole different thing. I go from outstretched "stop" hand signal to NO I SAID NO pretty quick, a lot of times they're so surprised that they do stop.
That. I've had to do that numerous times. Usually kids respond to a hand signal for stop, but sometimes you have to say "NO! Stop!" because you can tell when they aren't going to stop.
 

Shai

& the Muttly Crew
Joined
Dec 14, 2009
Messages
6,215
Likes
0
Points
36
#18
If it helps, instead of people think of it as when you are out walking alone and a seemingly friendly loose dog walks up to you, vs. when you are out with your dogs and the same dog walks up and you don't want there to be an issue. In the first scenario you'd probably keep soft body language to welcome the dog into your space to check for tags. In the second, you probably would step between to diffuse the situation before it has a chance to turn into anything, and put pressure on the other dog's space to keep them at a respectful distance. Not because you hate other dogs or think that you are Alpha Queen of the Universe, but because your dog is your first responsibility.

Even for more bold dogs, their knowing that you'll handle the situation makes a huge difference. Mira and I had a loose husky jump out of the brush at us last year while rollerjoring on a bike path. Startled us both, frankly, but her trust let me drop the leash and tell her to stay while I backed the husky off and applied pressure til he went back the way he had come. Knowing that she would stay and trust me freed me up to do my job: keep her safe.

When you have a stranger-sensitive dog, strange people approaching inappropriately are your unknown stray dogs. Don't worry about the social aspect, just calmly step in and back them off without escalating the scene. If they prove to be friendly and have all appropriate vaccinations ( ;) ) and your dog relaxed, then you may chose to let them meet, but that's your call and no one else's.
 

sillysally

Obey the Toad.
Joined
Sep 20, 2008
Messages
5,074
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
A hole in the bottom of the sea.
#19
Gwen sounds a lot like Sally. I have found that "attention heels" with my body in between the dog and passerby deters most people. I do this with both dogs actually, it helps curb Jack's attention wh*ring. Body blocking is excellent, as is being very obvious about putting distance between yourself and others.
 

Sekah

The Monster.
Joined
Feb 6, 2011
Messages
1,339
Likes
0
Points
0
Location
Toronto
#20
Agility was a huge help for us, because agility people don't let their dogs bother yours generally. Meg is never reactive at trials, because she's learned she doesn't have to look out for trouble.
I think this shift is fascinating. It's evidently pretty common, but I'm always impressed to see it. Mega has never liked other dogs, especially other strange dogs... or strange people. But she's as happy as a clam on leash or off leash with my demo team. She quickly learned that all the dogs there are focused on not-her, so she didn't have to be on the offensive. She has visibly relaxed and can perform with the team. Meanwhile, she's still barky (if not preemptively controlled) while walking around my neighbourhood. The dogs really do learn that they have safe spaces out in public.
 

Members online

No members online now.
Top