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unjustified signs of fear around strangers

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Oana B, Oct 28, 2019.


  1. Oana B

    Oana B PetForums Newbie

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    Hi everyone.

    I would really appreciate hearing some advice from any pet parents that experienced similar behavioural problems with their pets.

    My 11 month standard poodle suddenly started to show unjustified signs of fear around strangers. In fact, she is tensing up and pulls on her leash sometimes towards (aggressively) or away from (skittishly) the passing people. Nothing unusual happened to her to trigger this. Is this normal teenager behaviour that shall pass? Did you experience that with yours? She was friendly and happy to be petted by strangers, especially by children. She was properly socialized since she was a puppy, street walking and dog parks. Also, the day after tomorrow she`ll be undergoing spaying operation. She had her first season in August. Will the spaying help or worsen her behaviour, as I`ve read about female dogs that show aggression increase afterwards?
     
  2. Jamesgoeswalkies

    Jamesgoeswalkies PetForums VIP

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    I know what you mean by 'unjustified' (as in there is no obvious reason) but what you have to remember here is that to your poodle this fear is justified. And therefore rather than see it as her issue, it now becomes ours .... what situations have we not observed (read correctly) so that our dog has developed this anxiety around strangers.

    Whilst secondary fear periods can appear around adolescence they don't really just spring up from no where and so i would perhaps think back to her post puppy experiences with humans. 'Happy to be petted by strangers' isn't always how the dog see's it and quite often their request for space (stationary body language, gentle turning the head away, averting eyes, slight backward movement) is ignored by the human intent on petting the dog. And it is this that leads the dog, as they grow up, to become wary of any stranger approaching them lest they too will ignore a request for a little space.

    So personally, I would give her plenty of distance away from strangers and stop allowing any petting. Start to teach her how to walk past nicely and feel safe again when humans are around. Hopefully in time her confidence will return.

    I am not going to comment on whether or not to spay. Others may be able to offer advice. And perhaps talk to your Vet about your concerns.

    J.
     
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  3. Oana B

    Oana B PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you for your quick reply. Why I said happy? Just an example: imagine her walking nicely on the leash, then some people saying randomly - but without approaching her - "what a beautiful puppy" or any phrase including the word "beautiful" (she learned beautiful is a good word and she reacts to it in a good way - when she hears "beautiful" she always assumes it`s about her even if it`s not). Well, she usually went towards those people and acted like she wanted them to pet her. She did this happy dance, like a little horse, I don`t know how to explain it without showing it on video, but it was clear she demanded the attention and was happy to receive it. She was like a peacock, now she turned hedgehog and I don`t understand why.
     
  4. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel PetForums VIP

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    I cant say whether the spaying will worsen the behaviour but i am certain it wont help it.

    I read extensively on the subject of behaviour change following bitch spay and only just had my bitch spayed 2 weeks ago at the age of 2.5 yrs.

    It seems there is evidence to show that some bitches do become anxious following spay (this will be the agression you have seen mentioned, fear agression)

    My own bitch is of a more sensitive nature, which is why i held off so long.

    There are some advantages spaying before the second season and you need to weigh up what the pros and cons are.

    Agree with jgw re the behaviour changes you are currently seeing
     
  5. Oana B

    Oana B PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you so much. I`ll search more content about the advantages of spaying before the second season as you advised. I already know about a few of them, probably there are more.
    Also, forgive me, I guess I just had to share my worries with this post.
     
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  6. lullabydream

    lullabydream PetForums VIP

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    Just to add to @Jamesgoeswalkies excellent advice
    I don't see this behaviour
    As aggressive per se, I see it as dog who has been taught that every person needs to be approached... When they shouldn't be and when they can't approach, albeit unsure how to as well.

    I had a happy dancer dog, who was showing signs of complete excitement. However I have also seen many dogs act like they are dancing slightly which is more appeasement behaviour. Due to actually being unsure of the scenario, which considering your dogs age it's easy to misconstrue.

    I totally get its really hard walking a young fluffy dog, or small dog that everyone wants to say hello to. However it really can be overwhelming for puppies and isn't a good thing in the long run. Often seen as a need all in name of socialisation. When in reality puppies and young dogs need to be aware they share the same environment as other dogs, people, cars, wildlife, lifestock. However they don't need to say hello to all these people, dogs, wildlife they aren't that social able compared to the human race. Although dog walkers are often an exception to the rule and will tend to nod, say hello to others as we walk with our dogs. It's not the same when we walk through Tesco, saying hello to everyone as we walk down the aisle so why should we expect our dogs to do the same.

    Am going to tag @JoanneF whose got an explanation on how you work on distance, and duration to overcome the problems with your dog. It really does work. Also turn your mindset to me and my dog walks, not my dog and other people and dogs. Get to enjoy them as more a one on one event. They are enjoyable just so.
     
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  7. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel PetForums VIP

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    https://www.thelabradorsite.com/should-you-spay-your-dog-a-look-at-pros-and-cons/

    I found this helpful as a start, and if you investigate all the links around it, it does give a good overview. I really like anything written by pippa mattinson as she writes in a way that is so easy to understand and assumes no prior knowledge, yet she delivers plentiful facts, with evidence to back them.

    This article is older now, there is another somewhere (which you should be able to get to without too much digging about) in which she describes her own experience of having lost one of her bitches to closed pyometra, and had another saved with emergency spay.

    So, there is another great article she has written which balances those experiences in with the pros and cons as she sees them.
     
    #7 tabelmabel, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
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  8. Oana B

    Oana B PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you. I think you just gave me the perfect advice.
     
  9. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Thank you @lullabydream. @Oana B, the piece I wrote related to behaviour around other dogs but could equally apply to people or any other source.

    She will have an invisible radius of space around her where she feels secure . Find out what that is and keep her far enough away from other dogs that she is relaxed. Reward this calm behaviour. Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance she was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch her body language.

    Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration (your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15) and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

    Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour. Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.
     
  10. Oana B

    Oana B PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you so much. I`m always learning new things. Happy to have posted here.
     
  11. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    I find the care site is an invaluable resource for people with dogs that need a bit of space in our over crowded world http://careforreactivedogs.com/
    She may not have enjoyed strangers attention as much as you thought, and now that she is possibly going through another fear period she isn't able to brush things off as easily as she once did.

    You can also work on the Engage/Disengage game to help her learn that the presence of people = good things but she doesn't need to interact :)

    ETA: https://www.clickertraining.com/reducing-leash-reactivity-the-engage-disengage-game
     
    #11 StormyThai, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
  12. Oana B

    Oana B PetForums Newbie

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    I think you are right, thank you so much
     
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