I am hoping the DFA dog aficionados will play a round of Pet Detective.
Fifteen years after our beloved dog died, we broke down and adopted a darling 8 month, 11 lb. mixed girl at Thanksgiving. We do not know any history except she was caught by animal control in rural Missouri and taken to a kill shelter where we adopted her as soon as the 5 day waiting period was over. She is very responsive to me, my husband, and two teen sons; will sit by us, follow us, and let us love her. I don’t think she had ever been in a house because she did not know what a doorbell sound was. She seems housetrained, but I am OCD about taking her out so not sure. I don’t think she was hit because we are Italian-Americans and move our hands a lot and suddenly and she has NEVER reacted in any way. I don’t think her nails had ever been trimmed, her fur was a mess, and she had a variety of worms and fleas so I don’t think she was well cared for. She was extremely car sick in the beginning so I think she may not have been in a car before – she loves car rides now. Anyway, she is so good with us and can be bothered while eating and isn’t even slightly annoyed when we fish acorns or other food/non-food items out of her mouth. Her problem is people. She barks at them and if they move she will run up and try to bite their pants or legs. She wags her tail the whole time. She is relentless with the barking and biting until they sit down. Recently, when people were at our house she calmed down when they sat down and want to sit by them, get pet, and even “kiss” them…until they stand up and then it all starts again. I try to take her out daily to expose her to people and sounds, but this has only very slightly helped. A weird thing is that before I knew better, I took her to “doggie daycare” once a week and she initially showed the same fear-aggressive behavior when I dropped her off, but then I could watch her on webcam and she was fine with people/dogs; walking around, standing by people, letting them pet her/pick her up, and walking around the dogs. Some friends told me to stop taking her to doggie daycare because it’s a bad for dogs, but I am not sure. She is fine at the vet and with vet techs (doesn’t even bark) and barks at the groomer, but then calms down and lets them pet her and carry her around. We can’t take her to PetSmart because she is so loud and aggravated there.
So pet detectives, I am wondering if anyone has ideas about why she is SO freaked out by people and dogs, but is fine at doggie daycare. Any ideas about what might have happened to her or ideas about socializing or what I should do to help her? Could she have been a neglected, outdoor dog with little contact with people? Do you think she was abused? We love her and want her to be comfortable AND I don’t want her to bite anyone. Thoughts?theBCnutMember
Could she be part Border Collie, you just described a pretty typical OCD BC behavior. They like to control motion. It’s something that is bred into herding dogs, but that they commonly use inappropriately. Usually that means they need more to do, mental stimulation. Make sure you teach her a really good sit and down, and teach her as many tricks as you can think of. Then when she is in a situation where her desire to control somebody’s movement is activated, start putting her through her paces, kind of like using that as a distraction.
My boy has very similar problems (he’s a herding mix, probably Aussie and Kelpie). He is aggravated by almost /any/ motion. He is only aggressive to dogs, but it’s a fear-anxiety driven aggression. He tries to chase cars, people, anything that moves…
I find the best thing for dogs like this is to give them a LOT of stimulation. How much exercise does she get? I find with some dogs, you can run them all day long, and they still have their aggravation issues. The fact is, mental stimulation is much more draining than physical exercise, so my boy’s mental stimulation is a pack walk – teach your dog to walk at your side or slightly behind you. There should be no leash-tension (except the correction tugs), no sniffing or marking. You’ll know you have her full attention when her ears lay back and she gets a relaxed state. Pack walks take a whole lot of experience and practice to master, so try to make it a part of your daily routine. Other mental exercises include brain-teasing treat toys (like stuffed Kongs), sports like agility, and daily trick-training sessions.
Try to get into a routine of at least an hour of running her daily, and an hour of mental exercising. See if she progresses and gets calmer in a month or two. I’d agree with Patty in teaching her a solid sit/down/stay, and my boy uses his “leave it” command many many times (those darn chickens are so fun to chase…), that is one of the most important and life saving commands he knows.
Sadly, a lot of anxiety issues are deeply set in, and are temperament issues that are difficult, if not, impossible to remove. I wanted to get my rescue boy socialized with dogs so we could do agility together. After taking a group class, his dog aggression didn’t improve, in fact, got worse. I talked to a VERY professional trainer (she went and studied with Cesar Millan. Yes, I’m jealous LOL!). She told me it’s a temperament issue that was engrained in his mind from when he was young (I adopted him at 2y.o.), and she said it would take a lot of rehabilitation, which she was retired from.
Sorry for being long winded, but like I say – I’d suggest getting into a good routine that will help to keep her stimulated, drained, and therefore calm. Make sure she knows her commands well. Possibly get her into a group obedience class to expose her to new things. If none of that is helping, then possibly look into a professional trainer.
Hope you can find something to help her improve!aquariangtMember
She could maybe benefit from some group training classes with a solid trainer. Talk to them ahead of time so that they understand what you’re coming in with, but it may do her well to work on some issues in a setting with some distractions. some places offer shy dog workshops that help with anxiety dogs too
My sheltie is a barker too, and can be very up in your business sometimes. When I know I need her to be calmer with our daily activities, I get lots of stimulation for her-use the slow feeder, take a walk, do some agility practice (a great outlet if you have a herder) etc…
Good! I feel like I have some direction.
Pattyvaughn (who I refer to as my Jedi master) I think you are on to something. She looks like a Lhasa mix (wish I could post a picture), but a lot of people say she looks like a small Shaggy D.A. (bearded collie), which could be the herding. We just talked about maybe she was herding and my youngest son suggested getting a flock of sheep (haha). I have been training her, but we have a way to go before I can put her through her paces when people are around. I am hopeful!
Shasta220 you are awesome. I like your term “fear-anxiety” driven aggression, which is much more descriptive. I already have her “heeling” and walks are a joy. Most of the time she is so focused on “getting there” (not sure where she thinks she is going) that she doesn’t even notice background people/dogs unless a jogger or biker goes by…and then watch out. I will definitely start doing more mental exercises, agility, and trick-training sessions.
Thank you so much Aquariangt! I am going to look for classes that might be a better fit for her than the generic classes that wont take her bc she barks and lunges at others. Is a slow feeder like a Kong with big treats that she has to maneuver to get out? She would love that and I just learned about treats on this site that won’t aggravate her allergies. I think she needs more of the things you describe and I am getting to work today.
I’m getting to work!aquariangtMember
I use a slow feeder puzzle type bowl for dani’s meals- she does get kongs and such as well, but there are bowls (kyjen makes the one I use) that are designed to slow down and challenge at the same time. I think I saw them at petco recently, similar ones at least. I ordered mine through my local storeDoriMember
Hi Leah, I agree with Patty. My daughter-in law’s uncle and aunt have a that they believe (vet thinks so too) is part border collie and he’s constantly herding us around. He’s sweet as can be, no aggression, just wants to keep us together or at least in the same room. Some times it’s quite funny to watch. If any body gets up for bathroom break he’ll wait outside the door and as soon as you come out he starts nudging you back with others. He does get a little frantic if we start separating to different rooms. It stresses him out. When the grand kids are all in the yard playing he trys to keep them together so they spend a lot of time exercising him and he loves for you to throw the ball far to retrieve it but always has an eye on where everyone is. Amazing how ingrained their actions continue with domesticated dogs.
Leah, that is wonderful you have her heeling! It makes me so sad to see all these dogs on walks, and the dogs are way ahead – being the pack leaders. Most of the time, it’s these very unstable, hyperactive, insane, and fearful dogs too. I also smiled when I saw that she focuses on “getting there”. This is great! A pack walk is about harmony, perfect communication, and the destination. The dog’s only mission is to follow you and focus on where she’s going.
I was going to suggest herding as well, if she has some sort of herding breed in her, then you should definitely try to research out how to teach a dog to move animals. Even if you don’t know how to train her, just letting her chase around a sheep herd would be great! My boy is not allowed to mess with our cow or chickens (and the pony completely ignores him, haha). I decided once to put him on a lead and let him attempt to herd the hens. I was expecting his usual – lunging, snapping, and grabbing onto them. I was really impressed though! He wasn’t sure /how/ to move them as a group, but he knew he was just supposed to follow them slowly. He never bit them, even when given the chance. When he got to the rooster, I’ll admit they got into a scuffle, haha! So now he can’t herd the chickens, since the rooster will attack him the instant he goes in there!
And if you can’t access a herd of animals consistently, look into teaching her the sport of “Treiball”, it’s basically herding/moving large medicine balls around. I’m sure tutorials are online.
Yes, I like to call my boy’s barking/biting “fear-anxiety” driven aggression. I realized it’s not /true/ aggression, because when he was offered to sniff the back end of a new dog, he was content just sniffing. He’d nip at the dog’s face, but if he was truly aggressive, he would have grabbed a leg or something… I find dogs have their fight-or-flight instinct when nervous. My boy doesn’t seem to understand “flight,” as he nervously lunges at anything loud, moving, or otherwise scary.DoriMember
Leah, You can also find the dog feeding puzzles of Amazon. Most on line pet supplies also have them. You’ll find a few different configurations to choose from.
Yes, puzzle feeding toys are relatively easy to find. I bought one at PetCo (they’re usually between 15 and 30 dollars), then my boy also has his kong that I stuff and freeze. You can also search online for “DIY dog brain teasers” for some easy home made ideas 🙂
I am all over this idea and have been researching DIY. I have her Kong in the freezer and have been on a couple of walks today. It was her best behavior day yet!
This is so great to hear! My boy’s anxiety-fear issues seem to /only/ be solved by mental things. One time, just before obedience class, I ran him in a big field just as hard as I could. I played fetch until he’d just lay down, then we’d walk for about 1/2mi, then I’d fetch him again, and walk another 1/2mi. He was totally exhausted. It took 5min to get to class, and that was enough resting time for him to get all crazy again, as if he hadn’t been able to play all day!
But when I did tricks w him, and had him eat all his food in a kong/puzzle, he seemed much more calm 🙂
Shasta220 that is so insightful! It would have taken me forever to figure out that our girl “needs” brain activity along with physical activity. Thanks!
Update: I started using one of those feeding balls that has a hole that dispenses food as she rolls it. I put half of her food in her bowl and the other half in the ball and she majorly prefers the ball. The mental work along with daily exercise means that she is calmer after the activities so I am hoping some of the fear-based aggression will reduce over time and realistic that like her mama (me), she has an anxious temperament. Thanks for everyone who helped. I am still going to take her to some training, but decided to work with her at home for a bit and start it when it feels right. 🙂
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