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Behavioral Issues With Annie


Guest vrice
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Guest vrice

Hello folks. I posted recently about my grey, Annie, who we left in the care of my mother in law when we went on vacation. Annie growled, barked and snarled at her at various times, and then cornered her in the kitchen. Once we learned of this, we contacted the adoption agency and an amazingly kind volunteer took Annie into her home for the remainder of our vacation. I sent her this email today, and I'm wondering if you all can offer any advice:

 

 

"Just to warn you, the following email is very long. I apologize for sending you a "wall of text", but I'm unsure of who else to contact about this.

 

I want to ask your advice regarding some behavioral issues that may be developing with Annie. Any time we have an incident that seems like she’s being aggressive, there’s usually a good reason for her to act that way and we try to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, I’m concerned that we should be treating this as a red flag, and should be contacting a behaviorist or trainer to help us through this. Here’s a list of the incidents that we’ve had:

  • About a month ago, Toni (Dustin’s mother) came over and Annie greeted her with tail wagging and invited Toni to pet her. Annie rolled onto her back and Toni began scratching her belly, and after a bit Annie jumped up and barked in Toni’s face. Annie has a very scary bark, but she did not snap. She mostly just seemed startled. Toni attributed this to scratching too hard, and we gave Annie the benefit of the doubt. It seemed like this was an isolated incident, and Annie reacted very positively toward Toni until we left Annie in her care (for not the first time!)

  • We have a good friend who comes over about once or twice a month for a couple of days. At first Annie responded warily toward him, and it was clear that she was uncomfortable in his presence, so we kept them apart. We did not confine Annie to a separate room; we just made sure they didn’t interact. While I was out of the room, he attempted to pet her while she was standing in front of him, and Annie snarled and snapped at him, but did not draw blood. I assumed that it was because he ignored Annie’s “get away from me” signs and chose to pet her anyway (which I have since demanded he not to do), as when I rushed into the room to intervene, Annie was reacting fearfully. Since then she does not like to be in his presence, and if he approaches her at all, even to just walk past her, she will launch herself at him, snarling and barking. I tried to remedy the rift between them by feeding her treats near him, and working up to him feeding her treats, but she still startles every time he comes too close to where she is and reacts aggressively. I know the simple answer is to ask him not to come over, but he’s one of three house guests we ever have, and I don’t want to ask people not to come over because I’m afraid of my dog. Recently, we have isolated her from him with a baby gate to avoid confrontation. We do not leave her there alone; we just use it to keep them apart.

  • Over the past three days, Annie has snapped at me as a result of me attempting to touch her while she was lying down. This was not sleep aggression, but I’ve decided not to touch her while she’s lying down at all anymore. I will only touch her if she is standing to avoid further incident, and make her more comfortable. I realize that this was a fearful reaction to me trying to touch her in her bed, but I’ve done this many times before without incident, and she is lying down 23 ½ hours out of the day. I don’t know if I did not recognize the signs that she was uncomfortable, because she did not do anything differently that I know of - no cowering, shaking, licking lips, yawning, growling, ear movement or teeth baring. She exhibited none of these obvious signs of discomfort. What concerns me is not that she reacted, but that she didn’t growl first – she barked suddenly and grasped my arm in her mouth each time, but did not draw blood.

 

The result of all of this is that I’m becoming fearful of Annie, as I am not able to reliably predict her reactions to anything. I don’t know if she will suddenly snarl at a house guest (like Toni), or if she is uncomfortable with me touching her at all, and I feel lost. Will her “biting” escalate to real biting? My heart is breaking over this. I’m hoping you can provide some insight, advice, or even recommend a behaviorist. All of the behaviorists that I’ve looked up seem like (pardon my rudeness) “crazies” who claim to be dog experts, but who have no real education in animal behavior. I don’t want to pay someone to come to my house and tell me that I’m not dominant enough, but I do want to work through this before her reactions escalate to biting guests in my home.

 

Thanks in advance."

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Before you do anything else, I'd suggest a trip to the vet to make sure there isn't something physical going on, since things seem to be going down hill.

 

You're smart to contact your group; I hope they have some good suggestions for you, but I'd want to rule out that the dog isn't ill in some way first if she were mine.


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Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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Before you do anything else, I'd suggest a trip to the vet to make sure there isn't something physical going on, since things seem to be going down hill.

 

You're smart to contact your group; I hope they have some good suggestions for you, but I'd want to rule out that the dog isn't ill in some way first if she were mine.

 

Agreed...take her to the vet for a physical exam to rule out any pain issues.

 

Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos) and Joshi.  Missing Casey, Gomer, Mona, Penelope, BillieJean, Bandit, Nixon (Starz Sammie),  Ruby (Watch Me Dash) Nigel (Nigel), and especially little Mario, waiting at the Bridge.

 

 

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Hopefully the adoption group can be of help in finding a qualified behaviorist to help you evaluate her behavior. It's really hard to do that over the internet. I will ask, how long have you had her? And, have you done any type of training with her (obedience class, clicker training, etc.)?

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Guest colander_girl

I feel your pain. My boy does not give any warning signs either -- except when he attacks he almost always does draw blood. I am about to post my own topic about him after I have my DH read it over. I really hope your Annie does not end up like our boy.

 

I do also recommend taking her to the vet. After our boy attacked me the first time, we had bloodwork done and found he has a thyroid problem. Unfortunately I can't say medication has cured him, but I don't think that's his only problem.

 

Good luck!

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Sounds like the return notes for my Zoe.

 

The first thing we did was create a fully safe space. What I mean is we actually had an xpen set up so she had the run of one half of the room and could see us but no one was walking too close to her. We just let her chill out for at least a week. She was fed her meals in there and joined us on our family walks and as I said she was in the same room we hung out it. So that gave her a chance to become comfortable that while she relaxed no one would surprise her. We started bonding over walks.

 

The second thing we did was go see a behaviorist. She is one of the best in the country and trains others. If you don't see a certified trainer listed on her site I would highly recommend you call her to see if she has recommendations. Pat Miller http://www.peaceablepaws.com/ She's not crazy she's straight.

 

The third thing we did was put her on prozac, not any of the other relaxing drugs I mean an anti-depressant.

 

One of the things I noticed with Zoe is if she had an incident, for example snapping at the friend, she would be tense more reactive for another day or two. Once a snap would happen we would immediately go into chill mode to help her calm down again. Otherwise, she would probably snap and lunge at the next person to walk by.

 

When we have visitors we actually gate Zoe in another part of the house. We know lots of activity upsets her, so we just keep her away from the stressful situation. She is now at the point that when a party is calm with a few friends sitting down (friends who know her) we will let her out. The friends know to let her approach them and not pet her. After 10 minutes of sniffing around she settles in happy to be there.

 

She has a special bed in a corner in our house, so she is protected from wandering hounds and humans from surprising her. The bed has the two corner walls behind her, on one side is a chair and on the other is the TV console. She can go in and out of her nook through probably a three foot gap between the chair and console.

 

These sorts of space features are probably the biggest contributor to Zoe's comfort today. I can't stress enough the importance of giving her space that is free of human interaction without her being fully awake and standing on all fours.

 

When we are out walking the neighborhood I still won't let strangers pet her. She will go up to people with this tail wag and ears back that make people think she is excited to meet them but in reality she's got this bravado to mask her fear. Strangers reach out to pat her and she steps back and snaps/barks in fear. It's quite scary and much like Annie it's a warning, she is careful not to make contact. This reaction is inconsistent and I could never figure out what triggered the snap and what didn't so I just don't let strangers pet her.

 

A year after I brought a dog like Annie into my home I have a really wonderful happy little girl. I am happy to gate her off as necessary and have no problem telling people no petting. I live a very quiet incredibly routine lifestyle. She knows her people, her house, her pack, and her routine. I really think if you are willing to do a few things Annie will also be a happy and well adjusted girl.

 

I'm happy to talk with you more offline

Colleen with Covey (Admirals Cove) and Rally (greyhound puppy)
Missing my beloved boy INU (CJ Whistlindixie) my sweetest princess SALEM (CJ Little Dixie) and my baby girl ZOE (LR's Tara)

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Guest LindsaySF

Inugrey has some great advice. :nod

 

Does Annie have a crate or other safe place she can retreat to? She might be more fearful and reactive if she feels she has nowhere to go when she is afraid. I would highly recommend setting up a crate and feeding her meals in there. Even if you don't crate her when you leave, she will soon realize that is a safe zone and she can retreat there when she feels overwhelmed. If she does, do not allow anyone to bother her in there. If you don't use a crate, gating a room and having that be "her" room can work too. Again, guests would not be allowed to follow her in there.

 

For the first incident you mention, did Annie roll onto her back because she was being submissive? Maybe she was afraid? Many dogs feel vulnerable in the position of lying down.

 

For the second incident, I think you know that your friend pushed her. Annie was clearly afraid and overwhelmed and he still petted her. She tried to tell you she was uncomfortable. If she is wary of people she doesn't know, she needs more time to become acclimated to them before she'll allow petting or even close contact. I would allow her to get used to people from her safe zone. If she won't take a treat from the guest, then you give her a treat (over the gate) when the guest is near. She needs to associate the guest with positive things.

 

I would also encourage you to get out of the house with her and your guest, go on a walk together. In the home she might feel trapped and more likely to react, but if you bring her on a walk, and have the guest join you (but sort of ignore Annie), she will learn that the prescence of a stranger doesn't bring anything bad.

 

For your third bullet point, I would limit your contact with her while lying down. She needs to trust you before she will feel comfortable, and some dogs never like being handled while lying down. You can desensitize her to you being nearby while she's lying down by giving her treats. Do you have a muzzle for her?

 

 

 

~Lindsay~

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Guest Bob32392

Contact a Veterinary Behaviorist certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorist. These folks are vets with Ph.D.s and they look at the whole picture... psychological, physical, etc. There are only about 30 in the whole country. Someone on greytalk recommended them. We used one and she was great... she came to our house for 7-8 hours to observe us and our dog and has done a bunch of follow-up.

 

http://www.dacvb.org/resources/find/

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