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Rescue dog - he has some issues!!

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Blueyorkie, Mar 29, 2011.


  1. Blueyorkie

    Blueyorkie PetForums Newbie

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    Hi, i took on a rescue yorkie just before xmas, approx age 6. He was in a foster home and unfortunately the people that handed him in did not provide much info on his background only that he was jealous of their two year old child although fine with older children, not unusual for yorkies by all accounts. However, I get the impression that the family that handed him in were not his original owners.

    This little chap is so sweet and is very obedient, has not done anything naughty indoors, not a peep a night and very quiet and loving. His foster carer kept him in a crate because of the amount of dogs she had indoors and she did say that he was a bit of a grumbly growler. We found out it was more than this not long after he moved in with us!! He has always been fine with me, but did growl and launch at my hubby a few times at first. We remedied this by hubby feeding him, walking him and generally taking the leader role. Dog loved him very soon after, follows him (and me) everywhere, so that was one thing sorted. However, he seemed to take a dislike to some individuals and starts growling at times if they walk past his bed or even say hello to him in some cases. This escalated from grumbly growling to throaty growling and snarling and unfortunately, he snapped at a few feet, making contact. Everytime we heard him growl, we sent him away to his bed. This again seemed to work fine for the last few months and we had no issues until the weekend when we took him away with another couple. He was fine for the first day, but second day wouldn't stop growling at the other man and tried to bite his feet 3 times, twice successfully. There didn't seem to be any particular triggers to this, unless he felt that the man was in his territory? But he kept growling and threatening, until he snapped. Everytime we sent him away to his bed, and he went grumbling away. It did seem to calm down after that, but still couldn't trust him. Just wondering if there are any ideas why he may be exhibiting this type of behaviour, he certainly tolerates some individuals better than others.

    Some other clues are that he barks when he is out walking at any other human or dog, when he is on the lead. When we let him off, he runs upto people and dogs barking his head off but doesn't do anything when he gets there! He also barks if me and my hubby cuddle or are too close to each other, and will bark if he is on the lead walking through busier situations, which is really embarassing. Any ideas on how to work on this. I've been reading up on the subject, but can't find any concrete solutions. Is it fear aggression/dominance aggression/lack of socialisation as a pup, previous ill treatment and trust issues, or just typical yorkie behaviour.

    If we could overcome the barking and the unpredictable snapping, he really would be a perfect dog. Being as he is a rescue, I really want to give him the chances he deserves, theres no way i would give him back as I love him to bits, but his "bad" behaviour makes it worrying if visitors come over and being out in public we always have the noisiest dog around!! Help!!! Thanks if you got to the end!!
     
  2. Pineapple

    Pineapple PetForums Member

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    Hi, a few things here, don't know if I can help with all of them, but just from reading, I'm not sure that repeatedly sending the dog away to his bed when he growls or snaps at people is necessarily helping. He could be behaving as he is because he's feeling threatened & is warning people to keep their distance. I don't think that the mild punishment you're using (sending him to bed) will help change this behaviour.

    As you've done in the case of his initial response to your husband, I think it would be good to work on teaching your dog that there are good experiences to be had with these people he at first takes to be threatening. This could mean giving toys and treats to the people that the dog normally growls at. Have the person totally ignore the dog, no eye-contact or touching, just have them toss a treat or toy on the ground. I think that over time this would build a positive association in the dog's mind when confronted with previously-scary seeming people. If your dog does bark and carry on, try not to ever let him get beyond his threshold to the point where he'll actually charge and bite the person. The moment he growls, the person needs to back off and respect his space, he's making noise for a reason, as a warning.

    One other thing I'd say is I wouldn't allow your dog to rush up to other people/dogs and bark his head off when he's off-lead out on a walk. There's just been a big thread on this topic in another section, but basically you're putting the dog at risk, because although he may only want to bark, another (possibly larger) dog could read this as threatening and go for him. Better to keep him on -lead during walks until you're more confident that he'll be able to approach other dogs calmly.
     
    #2 Pineapple, Mar 29, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2011
  3. Blueyorkie

    Blueyorkie PetForums Newbie

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    hey thanks for your reply, has given me some things to think about/try. With one individual whom he was growling at quite badly, we did try the treat option and she took him for walks to try to allow him to see that she was "friendly", however, this hasn't worked and she only has to say hello and he growls and then just avoids her!! I know it's difficult with rescues as you don't always know the full history. The reason we felt sending him away might be useful is to de-escalate the situation and distract him before the grumble got to throaty growling and snarling then snapping. I just wish I could be more helpful to him, as it seems he is only really happy and relaxed when its the three of us, which it is most of the time, but we have to make him realise that visitors are welcome!!
     
  4. Blueyorkie

    Blueyorkie PetForums Newbie

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    oh i forgot to add just to confuse things even more, some of the people he has taken a dislike to after a while, he had previously been ok with, for example when we went away this last weekend, on the first day, my dog was interacting really well, even asking for attention and sitting on laps, so I wonder if although it could be fear, he also wants to be top dog and is trying to establish his ranking in the pack??
     
  5. Pineapple

    Pineapple PetForums Member

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    As you say, it must be difficult not knowing his history or the kinds of experience he may have had. It could just be that he wasn't socialised enough as a young puppy and so didn't get to have many positive experiences with a wide range of people. It's common for dogs like this to be particularly fearful of men, but I think it's really encouraging that he's now developed a strong bond with your husband.

    Building positive associations with people he's previously reacted badly to will take time. Does the growling tend to happen when your friend first arrives? Something that could be worth a try might be having your friend come in the front door, toss a delicious treat to the dog before he has a chance to growl, then turn and leave again, and repeat this a few times, waiting a little longer between stepping inside and tossing the treat, until she can stand inside for a while and have no negative reaction, and reward the dog for this. You'd hope the dog would catch on quite quickly with some repetition that this lady's arrival = yummy things!
     
    #5 Pineapple, Mar 29, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2011
  6. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    I agree a lot with Pineapple, in terms of course of actions. For whatever reason (and it could be speculated for ever), your dog is feeling threatened by strangers and those who are not around him all the time. Positive associations need to be built up, over time, in a controlled and consistent manner. It won't happen overnight, so you have to stick with it. Invite people you know over to practise the walking in, treating, walking out routine. Eventually, they can walk in, encourage the dog over to take the treat and walk out. And after that, they may be able to encourage the dog over, ask for a SIT and DOWN etc., and then treat.

    All aggressive behaviour is down to fear. Dominance/rank-building strategies are mythical at best and this is not some pre-planned behaviour the dog is performing to demonstrate control. :)
     
  7. Malmum

    Malmum PetForums VIP

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    Has he been checked over by a vet? Many dogs show aggressive behaviour if they have an underlying condition that hasn't been picked up on. It doesn't have to be anything really bad, it could be his ears or perhaps he doesn't see things properly - a check of his hearing and sight would be a good idea as well as a physical examination.
    I have known of a few dogs who have shown aggression that have actually had a health issue. There was a Rottie on here recently who was doing the same, after a trip to the vet it was found he had an infection which was affecting his heart. His aggression reduced as soon as the meds kicked in. Dogs don't always show any signs of illness and aggression is often the first sign. Just a thought and if he checks out okay then i'd take him for a one to one with a behaviourist. He/she will be able to assess your little guy and tell you exactly how to deal with his issues, as all dogs are different in what they require to help them, what works for some may not for another.

    Good luck and keep us posted please. :)
     
  8. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Just supressing a behaviour you don't like, like growling, doesn't really solve the root problem. In fact "growling is good", it is a very clearly understandable indication of your dogs discomfort and need to distance, if he could he may flee to safer range, if you prevent that (eg) on leash, stand still and scold him whilst the "bandit" approaches) then you may see fight instead.

    So unless you want to be correcting & scolding for ever more, it is vital to teach & reward the calm behaviours you hope for, when they're shown. That may mean finding a comfortable distance, to set up the dog for success.
     
    #8 RobD-BCactive, Mar 30, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  9. Blueyorkie

    Blueyorkie PetForums Newbie

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    Hi all useful comments that make sense and will give it a try. What I don't quite understand is that the dog will be friendly at first, greeting the visitor, even sitting on laps and being sociable so he doesn't seem in the least bit fearful then. It seems to be after a while, he takes against certain individuals and thats when the growling starts and it's not everyone!! When he growls we don't shout or anything, we just provide a way back to his bed so that he can remove himself from the situation and not allow the low growl to escalate to something bigger - people can be scared despite his size. Peharps he did lack socialisation as a pup and was originally a one person dog?? I wonder if he is protecting territory. Feel like it needs sorting as it was a good job these people who have been his victims have been understanding friends/family, others may not be so.

    When walking on a lead, he will bark and launch at other people and dogs even if they are on the other side of the road or standing at a bus stop nowhere near him, I guess I need to get it to the stage where he can meet others out and he doesn't bark then reward him when he hasn't barked, but how do you actually train him for this? He is a clever little soul and I think he can still learn quickly even though he is approx 6?? Would some kind of class help?? It can be ever so noisy when we go out!!
     
  10. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

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    No one for sure, will ever know his exact history, but at age 6 he has had a long time to learn behaviours and experience things prior to you getting him. If learned behaviour and responses are not dealt with quickly they can become pretty ingrained. Toddlers can freak dogs out as they tend to run around and can shriek and can move quickly and tend to grab at things, so that could be a simple explanation there.

    As the gaining his trust with your OH feeding, walking him etc seemed to work
    before It would be worth trying to make positive associations with other people too. It could well be that he cannont cope with too direct attention from some individuals. One of my rescues when I got her had problems with older men with grey hair, she didint show aggression but showed fear, even flattening herself on the floor when one came towards us.

    It might be an idea for visitors to ignore him totally no talking to him, going to touch him or eye contact even. Instead, wait to see if he shows any interest.
    They can then try slowly and gently throwing treats in his direction. Hopefully then he may slowly go closer to investigate, until they can put a treat on the floor nearer, still ignoring him, then if he goes up to them, maybe offering a treat and see if he will take if from the hand, then maybe a few soft words, and a treat, then a gentle stoke and treat, then finally looking at him. If it is fear and uncertainty, then if he is allowed to weigh up the situation in his own time without confrontation and rewards for good behaviour. He should then make a positive association with people. You could also try that when he is in his bed too, totally ignore him and walk past but through a couple of tasty treats down slowly and gently by the bed. He should learn to associate that people approaching his bed, means good things too and nothing to be feared.

    Im also wondering, as I have just re-read your details, it seems that he is sent to his bed everytime he does grumble or growl. It could be he associates going to the bed for doing wrong, You said he is obdiant, and even though grumbles always goes. If you think about it the dog has obeyed
    and associates grumble equals consequence bed. If people then go to his bed,
    is it a mechanism to tell them to go away, Ive done as Im told for growling or snapping at feet, Ive come here to get out of trouble, now you are coming here. (Humanising it I know which I dont like to do) but could be feasible.
    Ive seen it will dogs who have been yanked or shouted at for Barking and lunging on lead, so they end up doing it more when another dog is even further away then it was before and worse. They associate dogs with the consequence so do it more so the dog will go away hopefully and they wont have to face the consequence (hope this makes sense) This is why reward based training, can be so more affective. You reward a dog for good required behaviour re-inforcing it, rather than giving a consequence that can be unpleasant and make a bad association. As you said he is also a bit clingy to you, and loves being with you, does he know associate, People mean he has to be separated from you. Is he doing the growling because he is unsure of certain people and its his way of getting them to back off, at least initially,
    his way of coping. But now its also that he sees people means separation?
    As you said being sent to his bed worked for a while, which would give him distance if he was unsure. Now does he see them as something that means he cant be with you when anyone else is there so in a roundabout way its terratorial. What starts with unsure behaviour with certain people, then becomes something else, suppose in human terms you would call it resentment although its the wrong and too strong a word dog wise.
     
  11. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

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    As regards to barking when out, You could try the same things as inside, making positive association with people approaching, Use really high value treats in all this, cheese, chicken, hot dogs, sausages. The cheese spread in tubes is especially good for getting and keeping interest and most dogs love it.

    Timing is important you need to get in quick before he really starts the lunging and barking behaviour and gets too far into it. Try practising at a distance as far away as you can get at first, with as wide a margin as you can manage. When you see a person or dog, turn him 180 degrees, breaking eye contact and focus,use the treat to lure him and get his attention by folllowing it with his nose. Hold the treat up, say watch me, with enough practise he should associate the command, then rapid fire treats saying watch me each time, (You can practise this exercise indoors beforehand so he gets the idea) Cheese in tubes good as usually once you have squeezed some and they have licked it they get so engrossed trying to get more out, it holds their attention. Do this and keep his attention every time, preferably until the dog/persons passed. Eventually, he should learn to keep focus on you and learn that people/dogs mean rewards as long as he focuses on you and doesnt bark and lunge. As he is 6 and likely to have been doing the behaviour for a long time, its probably going to need time and lots of repetitions. If it works and as he gets better, you should then be able to up the anti, by getting him closer and closer to other people and dogs. You will need to move on as and when he gets better.

    Hope this might be of help.
     
  12. Blueyorkie

    Blueyorkie PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for all the replies.

    Sled dog hotel thank you for your very detailed response which all makes sense. I will try to educate our visitors to ignore him, i think because he looks so cute, people think they can make a fuss of him, which he is fine with at first, but as you suggest, may find the direct contact too much so slowing things down could be the way forward.

    Will definitely try the tube treats, that is great and seems quite straightforward. I know aged 6 he has lots of past, but essentially he is a dear little chap and I am hoping he will feel confident and secure enough to be able to modify some of these issues. Thank you once again.
     
  13. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

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    Glad you think it might help, well worth a try anyway. The one of mine who I mentioned in my post who was really afraid of men with grey hair when I got her for some reason, was 5yrs when I got her, she came around and gained trust and was fine after. So with time patience and persistence, if shes anything to go by they are never to old to relearn things.
     
  14. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Yeppers! I've had rescues who don't like "men" decide to sidle up and lean against me, after gentle walks when you are doggy polite and don't impose.

    It always amazes me how much more flexible dogs often are than people, who often seem so terribly set in their erroneous ways, despite better advice and knowledge becoming available.
     
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