Worried about puppies dog social skills

Discussion in 'Puppy Forum' started by Fran101, Dec 20, 2012.

  1. Fran101

    Fran101 Resident fainting goat

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    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?

    Halp.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  2. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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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?
     
  3. stardogs

    stardogs Behavior Nerd

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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.
     
  4. emc

    emc New Member

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    That's great advice! I have an on going socializing program with my chihuahua, both with people and dogs.
     
  5. sassafras

    sassafras mushinois

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    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.
     
  6. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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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.
     
  7. Linds

    Linds Twin 2

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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.
     
  8. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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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.
     
  9. Linds

    Linds Twin 2

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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.
     
  10. SaraB

    SaraB New Member

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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.
     
  11. PWCorgi

    PWCorgi Priscilla Winifred Corgi

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    Everything Shai said! Again! Read that post 27 times!

    Also, Shai...
    You win my favorite person of the day award (very prestigious) for that.
     
  12. Lyzelle

    Lyzelle New Member

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    Yes. I love you.

    I have nothing else to add to this thread.
     
  13. Dizzy

    Dizzy Sit! Good dog.

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    Puppies are so nerve wracking. I hear you :) Fred is not snappy or reactive at all, but he's not always confident, so we just take things steady and I try to be one step ahead so I can turn any event positive.

    He has spooked at people out and about, so I just let hm look and sniff, and I give them a ton of biscuits to feed him!!! Slowly slowly, but it is working. I know its not the same thing, but just want you to know you're not on your own!

    I felt really really deflated at first, but I know its actually no biggie now and totally fixable. As Merlin will be!!!! Puppies are silly.
     
  14. Toller_08

    Toller_08 Active Member

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    Yeah, I agree with all that Shai (and others) said. Great advice!

    I obviously haven't seen him recently, but I know when he lifted his lips in puppy class last week, he looked like he was just unsure of what to do with such an in your face, pushy puppy like that Siberian Husky was. It didn't seem concerning to me. Just a puppy trying to get his point across that he's a little unsure and that's his only way of knowing how to tell another puppy to back off.

    Keira hates dogs that get in her face rudely. Always has. Even as a puppy, she would react very much like Merlin is. And she grew up to be as non-reactive as they come. She'll tell a rude dog off when they deserve it but she mainly just goes about life as normal and ignores other dogs/people/etc. like they don't matter at all. She's super easy to take anywhere and I never, ever worry that she's going to react to anything in the world be it objects, dogs, people, whatever.

    With Keira I just made sure I protected her from obnoxious dogs/puppies by keeping her away (because you don't want to create a defensive dog by constantly having him in such situations of course), and I rewarded her for just being around nice dogs. Puppy class is awesome for this kind of thing, too. Most of the class they're just with you while all the other puppies are with their owners, so the pups aren't in eachothers' faces and he'll get used to just being around them and nothing happening. The one I'm taking Journey to is big on puppy playtime, but they're also huge on body language and interrupt puppies who are getting too rough and scaring the other puppies, which seems to help. Journey doesn't snark at other pups, but she doesn't like in your face pups either. She runs back to me and avoids the situation. I know both of these puppies have had a lot of doggy social time, so I don't think it's even lack of exposure. They just don't seem like real doggy puppies, which I don't think there is anything wrong with, especially for a service dog.

    Puppies are definitely odd and he'll probably go through a lot of things that might scare you a bit, but chances are he'll come out of it. I wouldn't worry.
     
  15. Babyblue5290

    Babyblue5290 Happy Meal. Yum.

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    Bolded parts x2 lol
     
  16. Fran101

    Fran101 Resident fainting goat

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    Merlin has been playing with other dogs and just being generally awesome lately lol go figure. Even with playful boisterous crazy dogs he loves it!

    Guess he just needed time to settle and gain confidence. lol next we work on...screaming in his crate everytime I am out of sight!
     
  17. Oko

    Oko Silence, peasants.

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    Okay; the spam is killing me.
     
  18. Fran101

    Fran101 Resident fainting goat

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    Lol should we be concerned? The spam is starting to unfold like some kind of assault case
     
  19. Baxter'smybaby

    Baxter'smybaby swimming upstream

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    sometimes, the spammers are entertaining-lol. Just don't take their advice Fran! :p
     
  20. Oko

    Oko Silence, peasants.

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