Nipping At Strangers' Backside

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by brodys_mom, May 3, 2013.

  1. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Ever since I got Brody, I have been unsure of how he would react to strangers. Because of this, when we are on a walk, I always have him sit off to the side when we see a person approaching. I do this in a calm, non-reactive way. Just, "oh, look, there's a person. ho hum. why don't you sit here and I will feed you a few treats as he/she passes". At first I would shorten his leash, not tight, but just so I could prevent anything from happening. Lately, I have not been doing this, but usually he just remains sitting until I say okay, or start to walk. A couple of times, he has moved towards the person as they walked away, but there was no contact. One time, we were on a sidewalk with a wall on one side and a busy street on the other. I saw two people approaching, one was pulling a small suitcase on wheels. I had Brody sit as usual, and all was fine until the man with the suitcase went past. Brody suddenly lunged towards the suitcase and snarled and growled at it. I pulled him back. No harm done.

    This morning we were walking along a familiar path that goes between two townhouse complexes. There are high solid fences on both sides. At the end of this path is the entrance to the school ground, and the path takes a sharp right. You can't see if anything is coming on the right because of the high solid fence, so normally I cinch up on the leash and take the corner wide so I can see what's coming before Brody does. I neglected to do this, and there was a tall man right there, dressed in black wearing sunglasses. Brody didn't bark or growl or give any warning, just followed the man as he passed, then nipped his backside! I was quite surprised. The man was angry (rightly so) and told me to control my dog and keep him on a short leash. I apologized, didn't yell at Brody, just made him sit before we moved on. Now I wonder if he would have done the same thing all those other times when he moved to follow someone.

    Has anyone with herding breeds had to deal with this, and is there anyway to prevent it? Will he outgrow it, or will I have to be so vigilant with him forever?

  2. charmedwolf Moderator

    This is fear biting. He's afraid of people, not enough to act with them facing him but with their backs turned, they're fair game! If you keep working with him, you'll probably get much more relaxed around unfamiliar people.

    You're doing a great thing by giving him treats when people are passing and I would keep doing that. This will condition him to people= food. I would personally give heavier food rewards as they walk away or even move yourself away as a reward in itself.

    I would also invest in a head-collar or a muzzle. It's precautionary but for those walks when you can't/don't feel like training. It will stop him from doing any damage if he tries to snap again. Muzzle obviously blocks the mouth fully but head haltis and gentle leader if pulled upward can close the mouth in a pinch.

    Also, I would suggest teaching "Leave it". You can transfer it to the humans so he can't follow them to take that step out of the equation.
    Mutt, brodys_mom and blacknym like this.
  3. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Thanks for your great comments and suggestions. It's good to know I'm on the right track, even if I still make some mistakes. As with everything, I need to work on being consistent.

    I actually bought a gentle leader for him, but returned it after a week. He really seemed to hate it, and the idea that I had to train him for a week just to wear it, before I could attach a leash and try to walk him seemed to go against all the positive reinforcement training I've been trying to do. We use a harness because he backed himself out of his collar once when he was approached by a rather large dog who had gotten away from his owner. He got so scared he released his anal sacs all over my pants before he took off and ran over a mile back to our house. Good thing we were in familiar territory, even though he had to cross a fairly busy intersection.

    I've thought about a muzzle, for my own peace of mind. I worry about the stigma that comes with it, but I guess it's better for people to think a dog is dangerous when he's not, than to think a dog is safe when he's not. This is the big challenge with the under-socialized dog. What he really needs is to be around more and different people, but it is so stressful for both of us that it is very difficult to make it happen. He'll probably hate a muzzle as much, if not more, than the gentle leader.

    I have taught "leave it" for food, and he does okay in the house. Not so good outside or on walks where he is very much in the moment. I have thought of teaching it for other things, like rolling a ball past him when he's in a stay or something to that affect.

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