What Can I Do Differently Next Time?

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by brodys_mom, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Over the Christmas break, we had quite a few visitors, three who stayed overnight for a few days. It took us a little while to figure out the best way to handle this with Brody's reactivity to strangers. What worked best was to have him in an upstairs room when people first arrived, and let him get used to the fact that new people were in the house. He barked quite a bit, but once he settled down, I brought him downstairs and sat with him, with his Halti and leash on, in the living room while everyone was sitting in the kitchen eating area. I fed him treats for being calm, and after a short time, he was more focussed on the treats than the people. Once he was really relaxed, I took him closer to the table and had him lay down on the floor while I sat with him and scratched his ears, etc., still giving him treats as long as he was quiet. Occasionally he would give a short little bark, but nothing excessive. As long as people stayed seated, he was perfectly happy and relaxed. If anyone move around, I would take him further away. We were all really pleased at how this went.

    The problem comes up with the two people who stayed overnight. One person only stayed one night, and we didn't expect him to get too friendly with her in that short time. The other two stayed longer, but at different times. The first was a young woman with very long, very pink hair. I was worried about how Brody would react to her, but he didn't seem too worried. He did go up to her and take treats at one point, and even just went up and sniffed her feet and hands, but he would still bark at her whenever she walked into a room he was in. She went home on New Years' Day, and then a tall young man arrived, who stayed 5 nights. He is my oldest daughter's new boyfriend, and he really wanted Brody to love him. I felt so bad for poor Grant, but Brody would not warm up to him. I think we did everything right, but still, Brody was afraid of him. He would approach Grant very cautiously, neck stretched and ears flat, sniff his hand then turn and run away. Grant never moved toward Brody, but always stayed very still, not looking directly at him. I wonder if the fact that I kept Brody on leash the whole time made him feel there was something to fear.

    Grant lives in Minnesota, so we won't be having him over very often. He is planning to come back for spring break in March, and will stay with us for about 2 weeks. Are there any suggestions of things I can try next time to help these two become friends?

  2. kassidybc Experienced Member

    You probably are already doing all of this, but I'll tell you anyway! :) For one, if you're afraid, your dog will be too. Obviously you may be a little fearful something bad is going to happen with Brody around strangers, but if you can, try not to make it noticeable, or Brody will pick up on that and he will be fearful too. Not sure if this would help Brody, you know him better than I do- try making a really big deal when Grant comes in. Not so big where it will freak Brody out, but make it clear how happy you are to see Grant. Hopefully Brody will pick up on that and be happy too.

    Will Brody take treats from Grant? If not, have him toss the treats. Even if he has to toss the treats to the other side of the room for Brody to be comfortable enough to eat them, you can gradually decrease the distance. Or he could just set down the treat and walk away, just so Brody knows the treat is coming from him. Hopefully after a while he will take treats out of his hand. If you think Brody will do it for him, try having Grant do tricks with Brody. Even something as simple as sit. Then have him give Brody lots of treats for it. Chloe usually gets more comfortable with a person if they have her do tricks. If Brody will play fetch or tug with Grant, doing that can help also.

    I'm basically just saying what I would do with Chloe if she had to be comfortable with a kid (she doesn't like kids). Someone else will probably have more to add!
    southerngirl likes this.
  3. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I wondered whether Brody was picking up on something, just because I don't normally keep him on the leash all the time. Funny thing, he did take treats from Grant at first, but then on the last couple of days he wouldn't. One time, Grant and Becky were sitting at the kitchen table and Brody was looking at them and wagging his tail. I told him "go say hi" and dropped the leash so he could do that. He sniffed Becky and she scratched his ears. He moved on to Grant, sniffed him cautiously, then moved away. I grabbed a bowl of Brody's favorite treats and gave them to Grant, but when he offered one to Brody, Brody growled and backed away.

    Whenever Becky and Grant would come home, I would announce it cheerfully and feed Brody treats when they appeared in the room, or scratch his ears or something else he likes if treats were not close by. I did everything I could think of to make Grant's presence predict something good, and Grant never broke any of the rules for greeting strange/fearful dogs. He was incredibly patient and forgiving, even though Brody really acted like a moron sometimes.

    I thought of having Grant play with him, but never got around to it. Brody did play a little indoor fetch with another friend of my daughter's but she had to be very careful not to reach too close to him to pick up the ball. He is so suspicious!
  4. kassidybc Experienced Member

    What exactly does Brody do? I know he's not good with strangers, but I don't know much else. Is he fear aggressive with strangers? Is he just afraid and wants to run away and hide when strangers come around? Is he protective? How exactly does he react around strangers?
    brodys_mom likes this.
  5. brody_smom Experienced Member

    His reaction is different depending on whether he is in our house or yard, or out on the street somewhere. Right now I am focussing on dealing with him in the house. He has nipped two visitors in the past, so we are very careful to have him on leash before we let anyone in the house. If he is taken by surprise by someone new in the house, he will also release his anal sac. Because of this, I put him in an upstairs room with the door closed. He is what I would call fear-based territorial aggressive. His normal reaction to anyone entering the house is to rush the door, barking. Once he sees it is a friend, he will stop barking and circle around them, rubbing against legs, receiving affection. If it is a stranger, he would probably bite them if they continued moving forward, but would definitely keep barking if I didn't intervene. Since I know that this is what would happen, I keep him on the leash in a separate room until I have greeted our visitors and they are seated somewhere. (I also tether the leash to a piece of furniture just to be safe) Then I bring him out, still on the leash, but sit him away from the new person/people and feed him treats until he is no longer concerned about them. Once he is calm enough, I can move him closer, repeating until he is curious enough to approach the visitor on his own terms. I give the visitor instructions to ignore him, not look at him or move their hand toward him. If they keep their hand on their leg, he can sniff it and take a treat if he wants. This has worked for us on several occasions now. I would like to be able to get Brody more comfortable with new people, this one young man especially. He is a dog lover, and is very aware of and sympathetic to dogs with emotional problems as he has family members who rescue pit bulls. He lives in Minnesota, and we are on the west coast of Canada, so when he visits, he will be staying with us for days or weeks at a time with several weeks or months in between visits.
    southerngirl likes this.
  6. kassidybc Experienced Member

    The hard thing is, with a dog like Brody, there's not gonna be some secret solution to making him like someone. He's going to have to build up trust with the person, which can take a while. You can try having Grant play with him, and continue to do the things you have been doing to get him comfortable with Grant, I think you are doing everything you can to help, but it's just going to take time. Luckily he has an owner like you who is willing to devote the time! :)
    brodys_mom and southerngirl like this.
  7. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Thanks, Kassidy. I guess I knew there wouldn't be a secret solution. Maybe what I need to know is what not to do to insure there are no setbacks. I thought keeping him on leash the whole time would be the best thing, but now I wonder if it gave Brody the impression there was something to worry about. But then, on the very last day, just before Grant left, I dropped Brody's leash and let him go visit with Becky and Grant as they were sitting beside each other. Brody sniffed Grant's hand, and Grant slowly started to scratch Brody's nose, and he air-snapped. I immediately called Brody away and apologized to Grant. He said, "No, that was totally my fault. I shouldn't have tried to scratch his nose. He was doing fine, but I pushed his comfort zone." What a great guy! He's planning to come back to surprise Becky for Valentine's Day, so we will have another chance to work on this pretty soon.
  8. southerngirl Honored Member

    I would keep Brody on the leash at first, but once Grant has been there for a while maybe an 1hr. try letting the leash drag and ask grant not to pet Brody and if Brody is wanting to be pet tell Grant not to pet his head, but his body. I'm assuming because Brody is a fearful dog that he won't like a stranger touching his head. Also watch Brody for any sign that he is uncomfortable if he is call him over and give him a treat for coming. If Brody comes up to Grant maybe he could ask for a sit, paw lie down, or some trick he knows. And like Kassidy said if Brody is comfortable have Grant play with Brody. Keep up the great work, it'll take time, but he will get better with visitors. It really helps when you have an understanding person like Grant.
    kassidybc and brodys_mom like this.
  9. Amateur Experienced Member

    Maybe it might help if Grant turns his back on Brody and kneels and holds out a treat behind his back ... kinda like what they do with submissive dogs. No direct approach or looking at them ... then maybe he can treat him from the side once Broady gets better .... always let Brody come to him ....
  10. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I'm open to trying pretty much anything at the moment. I also found this video on an older thread. I had forgotten about this technique, but it makes so much sense. Everyone ignores the dog, but only the stranger tosses him treats.

    I had been telling everyone to ignore Brody, but I was not ignoring him, and I was feeding him treats like crazy.
  11. kassidybc Experienced Member

    That definitely does make sense. Why go interact with the strangers when his awesome mom is sitting there and giving him love and lots of yummy treats? :) Hopefully that method will help Brody! Keep us updated!
  12. brody_smom Experienced Member

    So Grant has been here since Saturday. He arrived at about 1:30 am, but Brody was in his crate, so only heard him arrive, but didn't see him. Saturday morning, when Grant came downstairs to the living room/kitchen area, Brody barked and pulled like crazy on the leash. We all just talked over his barking, ignoring him as best we could (it was really hard, he was barking so loudly!) and he did stop eventually. I gave Grant some chicken finger treats to break up and toss toward Brody, but kept the leash short so he couldn't go too close. He did quite well, and then pulled on the leash to go closer so I let him, but still held on. He eventually was right up to Grant's face (Grant was sitting on the floor with his back against a wall), sniffing his face and hair, but Grant was very good and didn't move his hands off his lap where he was holding the treats. Then Brody lay down on the floor and put his head on Grant's leg, let him scratch him under the chin and ears. We all were very pleased, but it didn't last. I called Brody away so Grant could get up, and every time he walked around or entered the room again, Brody would growl and bark. I kept him on leash with his Halti on whenever Grant was in the house, or put him up in a bedroom with the door closed if I was cooking or something and couldn't give him my undivided attention. The next morning, Grant was the first one down for breakfast. I came downstairs and let Brody out of his crate. His normal morning routine is to go straight from his crate to the back kitchen door to do his toilet outside, then he comes right back in for his breakfast. I don't know what I was expecting, but I let Brody go without his leash. He started barking and ran into the kitchen, turning right toward Grant instead of left toward the door to go outside. Grant stood still, didn't even reach a hand out, but Brody went straight toward him and nipped his thumb, right above the nail. He immediately turned and ran away, but the damage had been done. That was a big mistake on my part, but I really didn't expect a bite after what had happened the day before. Now Grant is very hesitant to trust Brody or me, and is looking for somewhere else to stay for the next 10 days. I've been looking online for a vet behaviorist in our area, but there don't seem to be any. My daughter is pretty near demanding that I get rid of Brody, which at this point means he would be executed. I bought a basket muzzle, and will keep it on Brody pretty much all the time, as well as his leash, which will be tethered to me or a piece of furniture in an upstairs room. I am so disappointed because I thought this was going to be a great opportunity to work through Brody's fear of strangers. Now it looks like that isn't going to happen.
  13. southerngirl Honored Member

    I'm so sorry to hear this B's mom it really sounds like you need some help and support. I hope you can find someone to help you with him. It's really hard to train a dog when no one is helping you. I wish I had some advice to help you, but I have no experience with dogs like Brody. Good Luck.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  14. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Now that I have the basket muzzle, I wonder what is the best way to use it. He seems to hate it less than he hates his Halti, so I could just leave it on all the time when he isn't crated. Everything I have read about desensitization and counter conditioning says I should keep him on leash when his trigger is present and gradually decrease the distance as he becomes more comfortable and stays below threshold. I have done this every morning, but it doesn't seem to stick with Brody. (Has anyone seen the movie "50 First Dates"... My kids joke that Brody has short-term memory loss and doesn't remember that he made friends with Grant the day before) If I keep the muzzle on Brody, he can go closer to Grant as he feels comfortable, without putting Grant in danger of a bite, but Brody won't be able to take treats from him unless he takes them directly from his hand. I had to cut out one of the plastic pieces on the very front so I can fit treats in easier, but he can't eat off the floor, only out of my hand.
  15. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    I am sorry you are having to go through this, brodys_mum... It must be heartwrenching. Stay strong and patient. Sorry I cannot help more. Has he seen Grant being close to your daughter? Does he see him as more of a threat than others?
  16. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I don't think it is anything personal toward Grant. Brody is just scared of everyone he doesn't know coming into our home. At first it seemed he was more fearful of men than women, but now it doesn't seem to make a difference. He is also wary of people on walks, and I usually have him sit off to the side and feed him treats as they walk past.

    I have read so much about desensitization and counter-conditioning, but what I don't really know about is problems with timing of rewards or mixed messages being sent. For example, when walking fearful or reactive dogs, I know it is important to keep the leash slack so that any anxiety the owner may feel will not be transmitted to the dog through the tight leash. If I keep Brody on leash in the house and I am fearful that he may bite someone that he is pulling toward, does he sense that fear and react to it more than he would if I dropped the leash and let him go to the person freely? And how do I know that feeding him treats is not reinforcing him for his aggressive behavior? I have read that I should be feeding him the whole time he is in the presence of his trigger, while also performing some simple obedience behaviors, such as heeling and hand touches. The feeding is very tricky through the muzzle, as the treats have to be small enough to fit through the spaces, but big enough so I can hold them while he takes it from me. Also, I have read that muzzling fearful dogs can exacerbate the problem because they have no defense, but now I feel I have no choice because I can't predict his behavior fast enough, and I can't risk him biting again.
  17. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    I am a firm believer that a dog will sense a person's feelings to a mind blowing level. Also I believe that the leash can escalate the situation. As you have said above, either by us tightening the leash and the dog sensing the tension through it and also that, where we see the leash as a safety mechanism (that the dog cannot get to the target), the dog sees that they have no flight option whilst on a leash. But if you use no leash then that level of prevention is not there. I don't know about the feeding of treats the whole time the trigger is there - timing must get really difficult to only treat when there is calming moment and not at a moment where the fear has grown... I can understand treating when he is performing simple obedience behaviors, in that it is taking his mind off the situation and trying to reinforce that is a good thing.

    With the feeding through the muzzle - have you heard of lickety stik? http://www.licketystik.net/ Would Brody be able to lick it through the muzzle? A nose lick can be a calming behavior to a dog so it might help in a small way by using one of them?

    Also have you read any of Turid Rugaas' writings on calming behaviors? I have found some of her stuff very interesting and you could use some dog language calming signals to Brody maybe?

    I am no expert on any of this and am only giving an opinion in the hope any of it may help, even in the tiniest way, I hope you don't think I am being too forward or above my station. My only basis is a very different situation in that we had a basket muzzle for Ripley in the house for a while because we have a free flying Budgie that had never been caged and we had had prior to getting Ripley. It wasn't fair to start caging her when we got a new dog and Ripley saw her as prey and wanted to kill her so we used the basket muzzle only when Ripley was in the room with the Budgie and spent a lot of time, effort and calming signals to begin to get Ripley used to the budgie. We did not think that we would ever be able to trust Ripley with the budgie but eventually she did calm down and change her opinion of the budgie and now the budgie dive bombs Ripley and sits on her head and Ripley does not bat a eyelid. So this is completely different to having a fearful dog, I know, but maybe a little bit of the same could make even the smallest difference to Brody too.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  18. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I can put treats through the spaces in the muzzle, and have even cut away one of the horizontal pieces to make a slightly bigger gap in the front. The problem is picking up treats from the floor. If Grant were to toss treats to Brody, as is recommended in many DCC protocols, Brody wouldn't be able to pick them up. With the lickety-stick, Brody would still have to get really close to him.
    I have been putting the muzzle on Brody and training with him even when Grant isn't home, so he doesn't just associate the muzzle with Grant in case it has a bad association for him. He doesn't seem to mind it too much, and he figured out how to drink water with it on. I took him for a walk while he was wearing it last night, and I must say I felt calmer! Even though I still led him to the side when people were passing, there was no fear that he would lunge out and nip someone on the back of the knee, or bite my leg in redirected barrier aggression, as he has done in the past.
    Ripleygirl likes this.
  19. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I did read about calming signals a while ago. I have watched for them from Brody, but haven't really observed him using them. I tried yawning several times, but got no response. I will look into them again for future use, but I don't think I would be able to master them well enough to help out in our current situation. Our visitor leaves on Saturday.

    The most difficult thing with Brody is the way his fear-aggression presents itself. In a different thread, I was commenting about how Brody will attack the things he is scared of, like electric drills or vacuum cleaners. I have been able to use classical conditioning with this, giving him treats whenever the coffee grinder or drill or vacuum are running, and stopping the treats when the machines stop. This is more scary when it is a person. He seems to be interested or curious about the person, and pulls toward them excitedly, not growling or barking, even climbing up on another person to get to them. Then when they offer a hand with food in it, he will take the food the first time, but later snap at the same hand. This is what prompted me to get the muzzle for him, the difficulty in reading his body language and understanding the way he deals with his fearfulness.
  20. running_dog Honored Member

    I think you just made a mistake and I don't think you should panic too much about it. I'm sure you won't make that one again. The thing with a coffee grinder is that it has 2 states (noisy and silent) but people are so unpredictable to Brody, he just hasn't figured out yet that all the millions and millions of different positions and sounds and states of people are harmless.

    I have been working with Zac and dogs because sometimes he will be really nice with a dog he meets on leash and then suddenly he'll growl at them, sometimes he'll be really nice with dogs he meets off leash then he'll abruptly turn into a total bully and scare them away. It isn't fear with him and he's never come close to biting, it's all noise, I think he just gets fed up but he is rather unpredictable so that's a tiny bit like the problem you have with Brody.

    At the moment I don't tend to allow Zac to approach strange dogs at all. I keep him on leash and train him when strange dogs are around, sometimes they approach us and then I just try to keep moving and ignore them. When I do allow Zac to approach the dogs I call him away before he reaches them (and while the lead is slack) and reward for the recall, then repeat, then maybe let him reach the dog (I move in closer so the lead is still slack but shorter) but call him away almost immediately and reward, then repeat but let him stay a little longer before calling him. I've noticed that he will now usually choose to come back to sit in front of me once he's finished sniffing the other dog. After a few of these meetings I might (depending mostly on the other dog) ask the owner if we can try them off leash, Usually Zac sniffs for a few moments and then goes off to do his own thing.

    While your situation is different there might be something in that you could use? Because it maybe clarifies to the dog you are rewarding him for leaving that scary thing alone but when that scary thing is there he gets lots of treats? He is learning that he can just walk away from the scary thing and that is what you want him to do?

    I don't know if this would help at all, quite possibly you already tried something like this, but I really hope you do find a way to help him and yourself through this.
    brodys_mom and Ripleygirl like this.

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