Zac Is Clever But Kinda Stupid...

Discussion in 'Off-Topic & Chit Chat' started by running_dog, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. running_dog Honored Member

    On Sunday I recognised the signs... Zac became very sniffy and difficult to engage with when we were on our walk, he ignored other dogs even when they were begging him to play. It was fairly obvious someone had been walking a female dog that was in season around our regular walking route.

    On the way home something more bizarre became apparent, Zac was newly fascinated by bicycles. He ignored a cat to watch a passing bike, he walked backwards down the road rather than lose sight of a bike, then today he was so busy watching a bike he walked into a lamp post.

    I could think of an explanation but it seemed far fetched. However I got a chance to check it out when I was speaking to a man who lives down the road. I noticed Zac was much more delighted to see him than usual so I asked him whether his dog, Molly (not then present) was in season. She was. Then I asked had he been walking her alongside his bike, sure enough he had.

    Why Zac has associated the dog and the bike so strongly I am not sure, he has no difficulty being absolutely sure that distant dogs (even ones which bear a resemblance to Molly) are not the one he's interested in but at the moment he has to check out every single bike just in case. I guess he's never learnt to tell bicycles apart before so he has a brand new obsession which I sincerely hope will wear off!
    Evie, Ripleygirl, kassidybc and 3 others like this.

  2. freedomdreams Well-Known Member

    that's actually pretty funny, how interesting! :)
    running_dog likes this.
  3. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Had Zac seen Molly with the bicycle at some point? That would make some sense. Who knows what goes on in their lemon brains? Brody has some weird problem with only white vehicles. Any other colored car/truck/van can drive by, no problem. But if it's white, he pulls and barks like crazy. Does he think it's a sheep?
    Evie and running_dog like this.
  4. running_dog Honored Member


    Zac has only seen Molly a couple of times with the bicycle crossing in front of us at quite a distance. We usually see them when the owner is on foot, he's got much more experience of Molly without the bike than with it. She's been in season before and this hasn't happened so I think it is because this time he has followed the scent of the bike with Molly's scent. You see we came back a slightly different route than normal on Sunday and must have accidentally followed their line for about 3/4 of the walk. If it was a visual association I think he would rule out these bicycles a lot quicker as none of them look in the least like the bike Molly runs with nor do the cyclists in lycra or in hoodies look remotely like Molly's owner - a traditional kind of hunting/shooting man who looks rather like he stepped out of an original Enid Blyton story.

    It is not impossible that Brody does associate a white van with sheep, but does he have experience of sheep or are you saying it might just be herding instinct to pick on a white object? It is a really interesting idea to explore. I know that at one of the sheep dog trials I visited even one of the very experienced dogs was put off by a white farm building so the colour does influence them, I suppose that on the hill they can pick out the white shapes easily. If Brody has met sheep does he respond more to white sheep than black sheep? Zac is steady with white sheep but iffy with black sheep because we don't get many black sheep around here leading to a gap in his training.
  5. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Brody has never seen sheep or cows, to my knowledge. We got him when he was 7 months old, and his previous owner didn't expose him to much, it seems, as he was reactive to pretty much everything. I have noticed on our walks that he mostly ignores cars passing, but hates buses, motorcycles and loud trucks. Someone recently moved onto our street who owns a white Bronco, and he barks and lunges at it every time it passes. Then I noticed he would do the same for other white cars as well. I have started to anticipate his reaction and ask him for a sit and reward him for holding and not barking for all of these different vehicles.
    running_dog likes this.
  6. running_dog Honored Member

    I can understand all the noisy vehicle reactions, I know of quite a number of dogs who react to them. Even Gus went through a phase of reacting to buses etc. Maybe that new white vehicle scared Brody (changing gear as it pulled away from the pavement or something) and if he can't tell them apart he feels he needs to react to all white vehicles. I think one of the dogs I know hates that gasping noise that buses make but the bus doesn't always need to make the noise for him to react because he has associated the noise with the type of vehicle. Dogs don't bother to learn how to tell vehicles apart, kind of like we mostly can't tell cows apart unless we work with them or boats unless we sail them. I'm pretty sure Zac won't be excited by my bike because that one he has learned to identify. I don't think Zac can tell most cars apart but he can even identify my Mum's car from the engine note before it comes in sight and also recognises the cars belonging to my Father and sister.

    I suppose dogs might find white particularly eye catching so maybe that makes them want to react more?

    It always amazes me how dogs have such incredibly long memories for some things - like Zac used to become quite insecure when I let other people hold his lead. I think that was because before I bought Zac we went for a walk with his former owner and the owner handed me the lead, could that single action really become so incredibly significant to Zac? Zac's former owner was a man who was tall, dark, and had a North Shields accent, I can't think it is a coincidence that one of the few people that Zac greets ecstatically outside of his immediate family is tall, dark, and has a South Shields accent.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  7. brody_smom Experienced Member

    That's an interesting thought, that he may have been scared by a white vehicle at some point. It's also challenging to understand and therefore be able to counter condition dog's reactions to various sounds or events, not knowing precisely what it is that makes them react to that thing. Brody gets really freaked out by "guns" of any kind. My son has an airsoft gun, which shoots little plastic pellets, as well as a Nerf gun which shoots foam darts. He can't even walk into the room holding one of these without sending Brody over the top. Similarly with a staple gun, although it has to be fired before he reacts, as the shape is not particularly gun-like. With Brody being a reactive dog, it doesn't necessarily indicate that he had ever been shot with a pellet gun to produce that kind of reaction, but it does make one wonder.
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  8. running_dog Honored Member

    Zac also reacts to bows and slingshots in the house but not outdoors. I don't think he's been shot at. Maybe it is the twanging noise.

    Might Brody have associated the noise with the object? I'm starting to notice a lot of times where sound features in Brody's reactivity. Almost like where noises can be so much louder to children who have autism. A friend's child used to go berserk in church but they found out it was the loudness of the singing that he found totally overwhelming so they got him noise excluding earphones and he was great after that. I can't imagine you'd be able to get Brody to wear them though!
    brodys_mom likes this.
  9. brody_smom Experienced Member

    He is incredibly sensitive to sounds, and feels the need to bark at all of them. The other day, he was barking like a fool at what seemed to be nothing out the front window. Then about 10 seconds later, someone rode past on a bike with very squeaky wheels. Of course, I didn't hear it until just before I saw it, but Brody knew it was coming. I have learned to never say "he's barking at nothing". He's just barking at something I can't hear. Last evening he kept me awake through the night barking at various sounds I couldn't perceive.
    running_dog likes this.
  10. running_dog Honored Member

    Oddly enough a lot of Brody's issues also seem to be about communication - that's possibly one of the most defining characteristics of autism. I mean if Brody was better at communicating wouldn't most of his issues be manageable or even disappear? I wonder how you can teach a dog to communicate better?
    brodys_mom likes this.
  11. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I don't know. If by communication you mean understanding, then I could see that. Most of his issues are connected to fear, probably due to inadequate socialization in his puppyhood. We got him at 7 months old, and had no idea of how serious his problems were. Our previous dog was a senior when we got her, and was the most even-tempered, unflappable dog I'd ever known. In my ignorance, I treated Brody the same way I treated her, and exposed him to more things that scared him before I knew what I was doing. Many of his behaviors have improved, or even disappeared over the last year that we've had him, but others have definitely gotten worse. I have been unable to find an affordable R+ only trainer/behaviorist who will work with us (they all want to work with the dog in it's home environment, it seems, so my willingness to travel with him has no bearing), so I am left to muddle about on my own. I have made many mistakes, and now am very fearful of putting others in danger in order to help my dog. If I could somehow communicate better with Brody, our most frequent conversation would probably be:
    BRODY: I'm scared of that!
    ME: It's okay. That won't hurt you. It wants to love you.
    running_dog likes this.
  12. running_dog Honored Member


    Reading your reply I had to think hard about what I meant about communication. I was not thinking about your communication at all, I was thinking about Brody's underlying problems and whether that might be to do with Brody's ability to communicate.

    For instance I think you've said he that at the moment he communicates frustration/aggression by grabbing your leg and he communicates fear by snapping at things, I know you didn't use the word "communicate" but that is what it is. He doesn't tend to look to you and say "I'm scared get me out of here" or does he? I just wondered if he even knows how to? Most dogs have other ways of communicating these things and are confident that they will be understood.
    Is Brody is so fearful he doesn't have the confidence to believe his signals will be read?
    Or maybe there is a gap in his brain (perhaps through poor socialisation) that means he doesn't know how to give the signals?
    Or maybe everything happens so fast because he is so scared that he simply doesn't have time to give the signals clearly or even at all?
    Or is he giving the signals but because of circumstances (and it simply isn't possible to always get a dog out of a stressful situation) you can't respond to them and so he escalates?
    The problem for him is that how can he learn to trust you to read his signals if he doesn't give you any. I think the approach to dealing with each would be different though because for the first and last ones you are trying to create trust, the second you are trying to teach him how to give signals and the third one you want to create time for him to give the signals.

    I guess I find it really interesting to think about how dogs think - like Zac and his bicycle obsession and knowing it isn't prey drive. I mean with prey/chase drive I would be working with moving bicycles at a distance but as it is if the problem doesn't wear off I will simply introduce him to as many bicycles close up as possible.
    MaryK and brodys_mom like this.
  13. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I've been trying to think back over the last year and piece together events that have impacted Brody, and what I did to possibly make things worse for him. He was "shy" when we met him, but not particularly fearful or aggressive. We let him come to us, offering him treats and allowing him to set the pace. He was very reactive in our home to many of the normal sounds and activities that went on, but he never retreated or cowered in a corner. His response was always to move toward the thing that bothered him, usually barking quite loudly. He never had what I would call a bad experience with a person, but his behavior has changed from simply moving quickly toward a stranger, head low, barking, and releasing anal sacs, to all of the above, plus a quick bite to the hand or upper leg. We were warned of his barrier/leash frustration before we adopted him, but didn't see any evidence of it until weeks later. He goes crazy barking at other dogs behind fences (one of which is our neighbor, who happens to live outside almost all time) and has bit me quite hard for getting in his way. I switched from using a flat collar to a Halti, because it gives me the option of closing his mouth to prevent a bite and even stopping his barking while I pull him away from the trigger. Being a reactive dog, his responses are incredibly fast and any attempt on his part to say "get me out of here" gets missed because he immediately switches to fight mode. If you read my posts about his behavior with visitors in the house, you know I was attempting to do some work on desensitizing and counter-conditioning him to the presence of strangers. I had read a lot and thought I was going about the whole thing properly, but it ended up going wrong. I kept him on leash and worked with him at a distance, doing all the things that had been recommended (feeding him the whole time, ignoring his barking, getting him to do various obedience behaviors, etc. ) and he appeared to be calm and unconcerned about the new person. When I gave him the choice to move toward our visitor, he chose to do so. On one of the last encounters, Brody actually climbed up on another person to get to our visitor. He wasn't barking or growling, his ears were relaxed. Our friend offered him food with his hand flat on the table top, and Brody took it the first time, but the second time, snarled and air snapped. I am so confused and now am so afraid of making mistakes that it's easier not to try at all and just avoid all encounters with strangers. My kids can't have friends over without putting up with Brody barking in his crate the whole time because we can't let him free. Our visitor told my daughter he would gladly take 100 bites to his hand if he knew Brody would get better, but he was doubtful and said he hoped all the work I was putting in with him was worth it. There are times when I am doubtful myself, and feel very hopeless that I will ever feel free to have people in my house or take Brody to all the fun places most dogs love to go.
    running_dog likes this.
  14. southerngirl Honored Member

    Missy also does this. She will bark her head off, and jump up and bite the gun. I have to put her up when my brothers and nephews are playing nerf because I'm worried about her biting them. If someone points the gun at me her reaction is twice as bad. I got her when she was 6 months. I wonder the same thing if she was shot with something at some time. Rescues can be hard because you don't know their background. I think desensitizing to guns would work. I haven't tried it with Missy, but plan on doing so.
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  15. brody_smom Experienced Member

    On a lighter note, here is something else Brody does that kind of defies explanation. He shares his water dish with our two cats, and sometimes all three of them will gather around it waiting for it to be refilled. If none of we stupid humans clues in, Brody will give a sharp "yip" to get attention, at which point someone will take care of the matter. The odd thing is that, once the dish is filled, Brody will not drink from it, but will bark at it like there is something strange floating in it. I have made sure that the bowl is rinsed clean and nothing but water is in it, but he will lie down on the floor beside it, barking periodically, occasionally testing the water, but then lying back down and barking at it. I have also tried different temperatures of water, in case it is too cold for his liking when it's fresh from the tap. This doesn't seem to make any difference. The only thing that will help is moving it away from the wall. My guess is that when the bowl has been placed on the floor, the water is moving around for a while and has some reflections in it that bother him. Once it has been sitting for a while, it will be still and he can drink from it. Moving it away from the wall reduces the reflection off of the wall and the food bin that sits next to it.
    running_dog likes this.
  16. running_dog Honored Member


    I have a busy few days ahead so all being well I will get back to this thread after the weekend. I just popped in to post a deadline reminder for the limp challenge.

    I think have a glimmer of an idea about Brody but I want to read through your posts since you first joined the forum (while I was inactive) and some threads and conversations I remember from way back from members who aren't active at the moment. But please don't beat yourself up about what he's like, while I think taking responsibility for our actions and avoiding repeating mistakes is important I honestly can't see that you have done anything significant to make him worse or things worse for him.

    Brody worrying about reflections is funny. Does he ever try to fish floaters out of the water with his paw? Gus does :rolleyes: .
    brodys_mom likes this.
  17. running_dog Honored Member


    You've reminded me that Zac was terrified of feather dusters (the ones on sticks especially but even a tiny feather on the ground filled him with anxiety), I'm sure he was beaten with one to stop him chasing his former owners chickens. He was distraught if he even thought one was in the house but got over it quite suddenly one day when Gus found one hidden, dragged it out and rioted joyously with it in his mouth. I couldn't have explained to Zac that it held no threat so easily because if a person held it it redoubled the threat. Gus made it an item of no consequence.
    brodys_mom and kassidybc like this.
  18. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I look forward to your input. Just a warning, there are a lot of posts!

    He hasn't done this yet, but the cats do!
    running_dog likes this.
  19. running_dog Honored Member

    I have concentrated on reading the threads you posted rather than where you have posted on existing threads so I may have missed some content. What I have read has made interesting reading as a story of Brody's arrival and developing behaviours and your progress with him. You have done an amazing job with Brody, the amount of patience and commitment you have given to him is astonishing. In view of your experience and knowledge of your dog I hope you won't think I am too forward when I make a suggestion about Brody's behaviour. I'll tell you how I came to think of it...

    Before your time there was a very active member called Tigerlily, I think you must have read some of her posts. She emphasised the genetic basis of dog aggression. I think that I accept that also for Brody's shyness (a shy dog can be spotted as a tiny puppy) and also for his territoriality (from my very brief perusal of the subject, like dog aggression this tends to become visible or worsen at about a year old). Now this makes your experience with Brody make sense - some things have got better as you've worked on them (elements of his shyness and non-hardwired issues) and other things (possibly mainly to do with his awakening territoriality) have got worse. It is not that you have made him worse it is just that these things were hard wired to start to evidence themselves at some point.

    I don't know if you saw my post about my issues with Zac's behaviour with other dogs on the "what can I do differently next time" thread. I felt the exercise I described might work with Brody but I couldn't explain exactly why. First I thought it was because if shyness and territoriality are genetic then perhaps like Tigerlily with her dog aggressive dog you should be teaching him that he doesn't need to approach people - Tigerlily's Buddy learnt that she would never put him into a situation where a dog got so close he had to react. Then I realised that it could be a lot simpler and much more hopeful than that for you and Brody.

    Counter conditioning and desensitization theory sort of assumes that once the dog is that close to the scary thing it will realise that it isn't scary at all. So if you have followed this Brody has learned to approach some people and act friendly (because he gets rewarded for this and so he thinks that is what you want) but you have found this actually makes him more dangerous. My suggestion is that this is because whether he gets over his shyness and territoriality kicks in or whether he is hiding his fear and then it becomes overwhelming for him or whether it is something else going on in his head HE DOESN'T HAVE A NICE EXIT STRATEGY. Brody's default exit is to nip/bite and run so that is exactly what he does because it has never been rewritten (at least I haven't seen any posts where you have said you have taught this, if I missed one, I'm sorry). I think he doesn't know that when he starts to feel uneasy he can just walk away (fairly simple to train using the exercise I used with Zac), or if he does know it he simply hasn't practised it enough for it to become the default response.

    If my suggestion makes sense then you really don't need to feel hopeless... you KNOW you can get him to approach people nicely, now it is his exit line you need to rewrite. If anyone can do that with Brody it is you.
  20. charmedwolf Moderator


    Jinx sort of does this!! Though instead of using her paw to fix it out, she just kinda dunks her whole head in and tries to bit it and pull it out. Often times she only has success in dumping water every where. :rolleyes:


    Isis does this with drinking glasses. If she sees a reflection in the glass as we're drinking, she'll bark. If we put the glass down to quickly after that then she'll try and knock it over! :confused:


    In one of the many many many messages Tigerlily and I sent back and forth, we had this very same discussion. Food tends to lower the dogs threshold but as soon as the dog finishes eating that threshold shoots right back up. aka "Oh this person is so great, keep the food coming, food gone,AH GO AWAY NOW" So you constantly need to keep feeding. In theory that works great. Real life, not so much. So, Tigerlily and I came up with a plan. We based it off of BAT but instead of you get close to decoy and you retreating . Our version was decoy approaches, Cue the dog to get behind "Please leave", person leaves. This was to teach the dog if you are uncomfortable go behind me and I'll make them leave.

    If you could find so willing accomplices, it might be something you can use for Brody.

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