problems meeting other dogs

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by lilypup, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. lilypup New Member

    hello all. i'm a newbie here and looking for advice. i adopted a dog a few weeks ago (*the lily pup*), mid january, from a rescue org. we're BFF now of course. she's a chihuahua / fox terrier / corgi mix - not tiny, but pretty small. 1-2 years of age.

    ok, so she's very interested in making doggie friends, but she's also cautious and wary. she'll snap at other dogs if they've got a lot of nervous / hyper energy and scramble to get in her face. we've started training and that's going well enough, but here's the thing: when we go out on walks, i don't really know what to do about roaming unleashed dogs who come bounding up to her.

    i tell my dog no for snapping, and she's been learning to sit and be calm in these situations. but for example, today i blocked a pitbull. he was friendly, but he just kept coming at her. his owners' had trouble calling him back. should i have expected her to make friends? should i have not blocked the pitbull? how should she handle a dog that's twice her size and won't quit? i mean, i could see her answer was going to be to snap.

    my boyfriend thought we should go up to the pitbull's owners and ask for a retry at making friends. i didn't feel good about that.

    ok. thanks for listening! :dogwub:

  2. CollieMan Experienced Member

    I think your dog is acting appropriately. It is letting the other dog(s) know that it wont tolerate being jumped and clambered on, and that it doesn't care for having its space invaded in an unpredictable and energetic manner.

    I wouldn't tell your dog 'no' in this situation as I think she is doing the right thing - she is attempting to diffuse the situation by issuing a small cautionary nip (and possibly a snarl/growl) to the other dog. Your well-intended intervention is interrupting this process and, in my view, can serve to make things worse.

    I think what you have is a common problem these days. There are far too many people who believe their dog has to 'make friends' with every other dog it sees and that it's almost cruel not to allow and encourage it. I believe the opposite. I believe it is unhealthy to expect dogs to just get along and almost push them onto each other. All I expect from my own dog is for her to walk past other dogs in a calm manner. I want her focusing on me at all times, not on random dogs whose behaviour I can't predict or have any prior knowledge of.

    How would I have handled the pitbull affair? I would have completely ignored my own dog as that is not the dog in the wrong. I would have focused my attentions on the pitbull and made attempts to shield my own dog with my legs and feet. (I feel that we, as handlers/owners have a responsibility to help protect our dogs.) If it got past me and got nipped by my own dog then so be it as far as I'm concerned. This is the way dogs learn and perhaps next time the pitbull might remember that your dog doesn't like to be approached.

    I think your boyfriend is half right. I would have gone over to the pitbull owner but it wouldn't have been to ask for our dogs to make friends. :) It would have been to tell him to keep his dog away from mine as I'm not interested in my dog having 'friends' of that nature.

    Sorry my views are a bit strict but I've endured this problem myself so so many times. I've learned that unless I set up hard rules then people keep on thinking that I want my dog to mix with their lovely jumpy bouncy mouthy dog. I don't!

    P.S. Don't ever pick your dog up to rescue it unless it's absolutely required. It's a sure fire way to make a dog paranoid about other dogs.
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I agree with CollieMan in the sense that she is letting the other dogs know that she doesn't appreciate the space invasion. On the other hand, not all over friendly dogs are going to tolerate that nip. For that reason, I would try to work on her own greeting. If she were to nip the wrong dog, a dog that you physically cannot keep away, then your dog could end up with a serious vet visit.

    Mud has the famous Border Collie nip with dogs. She likes dogs, but if they greet her rather than the other way around, she's certain to go for the nip. It's just like a mother dog's nip to tell her pups that's enough. I really have no issue with this at all, and she still will use it every now and then if the boys get too rough(my two male dogs) or generally just annoying. But, if we are at a park or in Petsmart, and some unruly Rottweiler(or any other large breed dog) come rushing to greet her...who knows what might happen. If she nips him and he's caught off guard and goes into posturing, she's not going to put up with it--and he likely won't either. I physically am not going to be able to "manhandle" a 100+ pound Rottie off of my dog, and if I try I am likely to get hurt as well--then I have myself and my dog bleeding all over the car as I rush her to the vet. We recently were working in a park on some long distance stays and commands. Simply for safety's sake, I had her on a 50' lead. She was in a down-stay far away from the few other park visitors, and there was a jogger with a pitty--off-leash--on the track. We were not anywhere near the track, as I was trying to avoid this kind of situation. The pitty saw Mud and decided that training looked boring--she must want to play. Of course, this dog was not trained, had no recall, etc. Fortunately I had a wary eye on the unleashed dog and saw him coming, so I was already heading Mud's way. I ended up grabbing her leash and simply walking the other way. Both of us completely ignored the other dog as we walked a bit angrily to the opposite end of the park. I have no issue with off-leash dogs, but if you have no control over them then quite frankly you're an idiot and you're risking your dog's life. This park was not that far from traffic, and what if Mud was dog aggressive? What if she had lit into him? It's just not an intelligent thing to do. Anyway, if Mud had nipped at him, who knows what he would've done? You just can't predict how other dogs will react to her nip.

    So, unless I initiate the "playdate," I simply have been teaching her to just ignore other dogs. If I see that another dog is getting nosy and really irritating her, we just leave. We'll go to another area or anywhere away from these dogs. Her best buddy is my friend's 110-lb yellow Lab, and he's very first he got nipped a few times, but now there's a mutual respect there and they are very happy to play. My sister-in-law's Lab mix is also extremely overfriendly, and Mud has nipped her quite a few times. She's pretty thick-headed but she's getting much more respectful of Mud. They love playing together but Mud has to remind her every now and then how much is too much.

    What I would advice you to do is teach her to ignore other dogs. If she's not leash-trained, that's your first means of defense. If she's wandering at the end of the leash instead of by your side, then she's initiating a fight just as much as the other dogs are. Hope this helps, and if anything is unclear feel free to ask. :)
  4. lilypup New Member

    thanks so much for your replies. she picked up quickly my rule for walking on by calmly at my side when passing dogs, people, children and so forth (cats are another issue). my boyfriend, tho, is anxious for her to be more social. i don't want to make her hostile to others... people have been telling me to say "no," but it's been making me so uncomfortable to ask my dog to offer herself up as prey - that's what it seems like to me. i've been afraid what she'll do is just stop giving warnings and go straight for the attack. i hope i haven't made things worse. we were all sitting on the grass together when the pitbull ran up. he was chasing a ball when he suddenly veered for us. he towered over us all. i did, well, jerk her out of the way with the leash. i don't suppose she was better than me - she sat down while i was blocking the pitbull. but i'm afraid i made my boyfriend sit too in the melee because i wasn't having any of it. anyways, i appreciate the advice a lot!
  5. stormi Well-Known Member

    I think collieman and tx_cowgirl have some sound advice.

    I agree that your dog is simply letting the other dog know that she does not want a strange dog bouncing all over her, and is exhibiting a normal dog behaviour. As she isn't looking for a fight, but is reacting to another dogs over-enthusiasm I dont think she is in the wrong and so would not tell her off.

    However, her reaction may initiate a fight (depending on the other dog involved) and so it's important to keep her safe.

    My Storm was attacked twice when she was young. She was just getting over the first time when it happened again (both in situations where I couldnt prevent it from happening and the other dog handler should have known better). She is slightly nervous of meeting new dogs now and understandably she does not like them bouncing all over her. She will not start anything but if a dog comes within her comfort zone and is not quietly trying to make friends she will grumble and turn her head away.

    We have lots of situations like tx_cowgirl outlines happen at our park. There are far too many people who let their dogs run free (often out of sight) and are unable to call their dogs off when required. Mostly these dogs are either over-friendly and want to bounce all over any other dog they see, or dominant and will run up hackles raised and try to stand over other dogs. It frustrates me so much when I am asking people to call their dog off and they either cant or wont.

    Like collieman I will try to keep the other dog away from Storm. I have taught Storm that if another dog comes that she doesnt appreciate for her to hide behind me. I feel it is my responsibilty to protect her and will try to shield her from the other dog with my body. I always ask the other person to call their dog off (which usually they are unable to do, and they often get angry with me for having an 'unsociable' dog). On occassions when the other owner is unwilling/unable to call their dog off I have used the handle of Storm's lead again my boot to make a noise in an attempt to get the other dog to leave us alone. With over-friendly dogs I have sometimes slipped my hand into their collar and held them at arms length until their owner is able to collect them. With persistant dogs, particularly the dominating type, I will pick Storm up. Like CM said it's not ideal but I dont want Storm to be hurt again and do not want a fight.

    If the other dog is under control as it approaches Storm if she starts to move behind me I know she is not comfortable and so just tell the other handler that Storm can be a bit nervous of meeting new dogs due to being attacked when she was young. Usually they appreciate this and either keep their dog at a distance Storm is comfortable with or steady their dog so it can make friends nicely.

    Hope you find a solution that works for you and Lily.
  6. snooks Experienced Member

    Very good advice so far. I also would not have scolded my dog as I don't want to stop her warning other dogs just as you were concerned. Having a warning in place is a very healthy thing and we should respect our dog’s wishes on who they wish to socialize with and who they clearly do not. I am not so overly anxious that my dog socialize unless she wants too. In my experience forcing dogs to submit to pets or rude overtures by other dogs can create some reactivity or fear issues. You said she is eager to make friends but like you she may be hesitant with unstable dogs (which the humans may not perceive), aggressive ones, rude ones, reactive ones.

    I usually body block the other dog or if I'm worried about its intent and cannot block I may toss a raw egg for it to eat or chicken and walk away. I've also taught leave it and a 180 turn to leave the situation if my dog is clearly not at ease. If there is more unwanted attention I'll use citronella or mace if aggression is a concern. Both of my dogs have been bitten from minor to severe by out of control dogs when they were on leash. I believe it also puts my dogs at a real disadvantage to be on leash when approached because they can't react and socialize normally. I have no patience for out of control dogs that molest my dogs after a LOT of bad experiences and corrective training. It is my job as protector and trainer to ensure my dogs' safety and continued gentle demeanors.

    As for the Pittie and socializing. Unless both dogs were leashed and exposed slowly over time at decreasing distance (far enough that reactions are calm) I wouldn't initiate more free socializing after my dog snapped since she's being crystal clear about her opinion. Going slow and not pushing the issue in a safe way is much preferable to overwhelming work it out on your own. Even dogs that really dislike one another at first can slowly be positively introduced if done at a comfortable pace. Esp. if your dog is smaller it is very possible that biting the wrong dog can have horrible consequences.
  7. lilypup New Member

    thanks stormi, snooks, for the advice. i'm curious, stormi, how you taught your dog to hide behind you? i mean, like, did you stand in front of her and call it 'hide'?

    i'm wondering now how safe sitting is in a tussle. since the pitbull, she seems to have really picked this up. she plunked her backside down on wet sidewalk today. maybe i should teach her something else to do? but she's small and quick. if she stays still where i know where she is, i think it may be easier for me to defend her without hurting her myself...
  8. snooks Experienced Member

    The sitting can be a fear or insecure response to I don't want you sniffing back there because I'm not ready for an introduction, or you're too pushy so I refuse to exchange information, or I don't like you personally so prefer not to speak. I wouldn't necessarily change behavior if my dog were uneasy about leashed greetings. What I prefer is not to allow leashed greetings if I have any misgivings about the dog or do not know it. Leashed dogs are at a disadvantage sort of like us being gagged when meeting someone. They can't behave and "converse" and move normally so it can be stressful for some dogs. I prefer to walk side by side if we must be leashed and I KNOW the dog for a while. Then I may allow a leashed greeting careful not to allow leashes to tangle. I don't greet dogs using flexi's at all since they can really hurt and cut if a lot of line plays out in a greeting and cause fear/fights.

    Socialized polite unleashed dogs do not greet head on or rush to sniff. They approach one another in a wide arc so they present sides to one another and then go for the circling tail sniff. The head on greeting or the sniff in a context where there was no low key approach is possible is sort of like meeting someone for the first time and getting a kiss instead of a handshake. Sitting is a fine response that is non-threatening and avoiding rather than taking real offence and being actively aggressive or displaying threats. It can send a calming signal to the approaching dog depending on the rest of your dog's body language that I am no threat but not really ready to romp or it could be a little fear but is non-aggressive.

    I wouldn't nec encourage hiding behind me depending on the context since it can reinforce fearful behavior. If it's merely avoidance then it's no big deal. Not seeing the particular dog or interaction these are all guesses and things to be aware of. You don't want to create or change behavior that is fearful in some situations. Ideally play dates with known safe dogs that set up positive experiences are preferred to greeting unknown dogs at any time to me. Esp for young dog’s success is crucial to self confidence.

    Interesting body language site
  9. stormi Well-Known Member

    Hi lilypup. Breeze sometimes sits when a over-eager male 'greets' her. It's simply her way of saying...nope...I dont want to make babies with you!!! Perhaps lily also, like snooks said, is just not wanted the dog to sniff her bum.

    I agree with snooks to some extent about hiding, but Storm knows she can hide behind me if she feels uncomfortable with another dog. It's like a safety net for her. I taught her...hmmm. First I taught the behaviour 'behind'. I used a treat to lure her behind me (so my hands were behind my back) and then released the treat to her. Once she understood the behaviour if she started to show that she was feeling uncomfortable with a dogs 'greeting' (by turning her head away and grumbling) I told her 'behind', and then used my body to block the other dog from reaching her. Very quickly she understood 'behind' as a 'safe place' if she was bothered by another dog, and so started going behind herself without me telling her. It's something that I've found very useful, if you do try it with Lily I hope it works for you too :dogsmile:
  10. snooks Experienced Member

    A body block is perfect!! I agree, it's what I use too. The behind in the right context as Stormi described is great too. Just no fearful hiding, place for a calm gentle leader to block as described yes.
  11. snooks Experienced Member

    Check out some of the videos on ARBI's site about body blocks, managing arousal and there are some leash aggression issues. Not that your dog is leash aggressive but understanding better what goes into leashed behavior might help.
  12. lilypup New Member

    i will check out the sites (!!) we had training class tonight. ack. quite a few new students. i'm rather grateful one lady brought her 13-yr-old dog, to *watch,* along with the recent addition to her pack, who was actually enrolled. it meant we had one nice model of calm. i've rather belatedly realised a class full of the untrained won't be a laugh a minute.

    but i'd like to say she walked on leash and did her sits perfect for the instructor, if under suffering.
  13. snooks Experienced Member

    oops meant to give you the link.

    I'm glad u had some older calm dogs there for role models, perfect. Life will be largely full of the untrained unf, so it's not a bad approximation. At least its safe and supervised by a trainer and filled with willing souls. :dogbiggrin:

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