Reacting To Family Members

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by brodys_mom, Jun 29, 2013.

  1. brody_smom Experienced Member

    This is not a new behavior for Brody, but one that I have been trying to work on with him since Day One, without much progress. He barks and growls at three of my family members when they come in the door. These are all people who live in the house with us and, with the exception of my daughter who was in England for the first month and a half that we had Brody, they have all lived with us the whole time. I wouldn't mind if he just barked when he heard the door, and backed off when he saw who it was, but he continues in a somewhat threatening way. None of them has ever been mean or threatening to him. My son is very friendly and greets Brody every time, bending down and offering his hand, not approaching him, but waiting for Brody to come to him. My husband, though he doesn't like dogs, tries to sound friendly and always says, "It's just daddy" in a calm voice as he enters, then walks slowly and calmly past him. My daughter tries to be cheerful at first, but when he growls at her, she says something sarcastic to him. I can't blame her, as it is really annoying and he sounds nasty.

    I have tried giving him warning when I see them coming up the driveway, in a cheery voice "Daddy's home", or whoever it is. Then giving him food as he watches them walk up, hears them open the gate and then the door. I feel like this should have eliminated the issue by now, as he has no reason to fear any of them that I can fathom. Other than him just being taken off guard by someone walking in unexpectedly, there has never been a negative encounter with any of these people.

    This is causing me a great deal of stress. My stomach is in a knot any time any one of these people leaves the house as I feel like I need to be on watch duty until they come home. I don't want to ever have Brody bite one of them, and I want to help him see them as friends and be happy when they come home. Any suggestions as to what I may be doing wrong here, and what else I could do to change this behavior quickly? I may be getting an ulcer!

  2. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Just wanted to give this thread a bump as I have had several views but no replies. Surely someone has suggestions?
  3. srdogtrainer Experienced Member

    I am just going to write down a list of things that come to mind. If something doesn't work you can try something else:

    Have special treats in a cookie jar outside the door that they can grab as they come in. (Dropping them on the floor or tossing them might be better then trying to go up to give them to Brody.) Maybe even have them drop a whole handful of treats. Or try having them throw a toy when they come in.

    When Brody calms down send the person back outside to come in again and see if he reacts better the second or third time.

    When everyone is home have various members go outside and come back in and then maybe out the back door and come in the front door. Use some really good meat treats.

    Put Brody in a crate or another room until the family member has come in side and maybe have them sit on a chair before Brody comes into the room.

    Keep Brody on leash. Every time Brody Barks remove him from the room. Say lets go lead him to another room and leave him alone for a couple minutes.

    Have the other family members feed him, play with him, train him and do fun things with him to increase his bond with them.

    Depending on what time they come home maybe they could come home and feed Brody right away so he associated them coming home with being fed. Maybe even have each one give him one handful of kibble.
    Or you can have them go outside and come back in with the food bowl.

    Work a lot on leave it, and watch me and work on those as they come in.

    You say "This is causing me a great deal of stress. My stomach is in a knot any time any one of these people leaves the house as I feel like I need to be on watch duty until they come home."
    Remember that he can pick up on the stress that you feel. Try to make it the most fun part of the day when anyone comes home. People coming home= play time.

    Try to do some high energy exercise right before they come home so he is tired and less likely to react.

    Maybe go outside and come in with them so that when they come home you come home too.

    Work on down, lay on your side, massage and relaxation and try to get him to relax before they come home and associate relaxation with the family coming back.

    Take Brody outside to greet them outside and see if he reacts better that way.

    Take him outside in the backyard and then take him in the front after they have come in.

    I hope at least one of these ideas helps! Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
    brodys_mom and southerngirl like this.
  4. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Wow, those are some great ideas. I knew someone would come through eventually!:)

    Looks like I'm going to have to ask these three people to take some of the responsibility for this on themselves. I don't want to have to be constantly on the alert for someone coming home unexpectedly or when I am not watching. This is what's causing me stress. They don't come home at set times each day, so I can't really be prepared in advance, I can only listen for their cars or the side gate opening. I have taken Brody into the bathroom with me on many occasions just to be sure.

    I was watching a video on rehabilitating reactive dogs by Emily Larlham of kikopup fame. She was teaching about the timing of treats for counter-conditioning and how the predictor of the reward has to be the appearance of the trigger, not the handler reaching for the treats. I was unsure if what I have been doing is what is causing this behavior to carry on so long when I have been working daily on counter-conditioning his response to the arrival of family members. I try to make sure he hears the car, or sees them walking up the driveway, or else I just tell him in a happy voice, "Daddy's home". Then I wait until Daddy opens the door and feed him treats. I just wonder if all the set up is working against me, and I should just wait until the door opens. We have done some work just sitting at the front window people watching, and clicking and treating for calmness. Maybe I need to work specifically on isolating the sounds of approach. People have to open and close a gate latch before they can enter our main door. Then we have the bell tied on the door handle for Brody to ask to go out, so that jingles every time someone comes in. I should probably work on the opening of the door as well.

    The other thing is, he reacts to the same people when they have been home for a while, but have been in their rooms and then come to the floor that Brody is on. He used to freak out every time my younger son would come downstairs in the morning if he had a particular shirt on, or when he would change into his karate uniform. But this boy was determined to help Brody get over this problem, so he always called his name before he came downstairs, then offered him some treats or played tug with him. Brody doesn't react to him at all now, even though he is the least predictable of all the kids, and will sometimes run up to Brody then squat down and give him a big hug or a good scratch behind his ears. They are becoming great pals.
    southerngirl likes this.
  5. srdogtrainer Experienced Member

    Maybe you could have your family call before they leave to come home.

    It could be that your timing is off on the counter conditioning and you are actually reinforcing him for reacting. Or maybe he is fearful and you are treating him for being afraid. It is hard to say without seeing it.

    Yeah, I think it would be good to figure out what your family members should do and get them involved in his training.

    Sounds like what ever your youngest son did worked, so it is possible for Brody to get used to the rest of the family. Maybe your son can help you with the training to get Brody used to the other members of the family.
    brodys_mom and southerngirl like this.
  6. brody_smom Experienced Member

    This is the part I can't quite figure out. If he is afraid of them, why? My older son is very quiet, always calm and friendly to Brody, even when he is growling or barking at him. I sometimes think his quietness is the problem, as he can sort of appear without warning. I read somewhere that Border Collies and other herding breeds can react badly if they feel they've been caught napping, so to speak. My son tends to wear dark clothing, but sometimes will wear a white shirt with black pants, and this can set Brody off as well. And when he is leaving for a music event, my son has to bring his guitar, amplifier and pedal case downstairs, and this is another trigger.

    My daughter is louder, as is my husband. She wants to like Brody, but is moody and unforgiving if he is nasty when she comes home. She claims to love dogs, but lacks tolerance for the very dog-like activity of sniffing peoples backsides, bare legs and feet. She will play with him and try to get him to like her, which he does, but it has to be on her terms, which are not easy to figure out. My husband is very similar to her in this way. He doesn't really care if Brody likes him, though. He'd rather that Brody pay him no attention at all except for when he wants him to move out of the way. Brody likes to lay quietly under the table when we are having family meals, but tends to put his head right under my husband's chair or between his feet, which is unacceptable, so I end up having to crate him most of the time. When my husband sits down in his chair in the living room to read or use his laptop, Brody will go over to him to sniff his legs/feet/hands and this makes him very uncomfortable. He never entertains this attention from Brody in any way. He won't speak to him or look at him, he just pulls his hands and feet up and looks away, saying "no, no, no". I am constantly calling Brody off of him, so I'm not sure what Brody thinks, whether Daddy is safe or dangerous. The other evening my husband had gone out for a bike ride. I was in the kitchen with Brody when he came home, but we hadn't heard any of the usual warning sounds, so neither of us was expecting the door to open. When Daddy walked in, Brody was so surprised he released his anal sacs spontaneously. This has become the indicator of how frightened Brody is by any situation. If the anal sacs go off, we know it's pretty bad!

    So I wonder if I need to separate the two issues: coming in the door, and general uneasiness around these three people. BTW, Brody rarely reacts when any other family members come in the door, and usually it's only to the gate latch or door opening. Once he sees who it is, he's all wiggles and wags.

    How do I know if I am reinforcing him for being fearful rather than counter-conditioning him? Emily Larlham says when the dog is in the presence of a trigger, you can treat them for three behaviors: constantly looking at the trigger (if they will eat, they are under threshold), looking at the trigger then looking away/at you, or ignoring the trigger completely.

Share This Page

Real Time Analytics