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Fear Aggression

Guest jonathan_stone

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Guest jonathan_stone

Hi all,


My wife and I adopted Barraza 5 months ago. Barraza is a fawn female with no health issues who was at the track her whole life until last August when she was fostered. She has no teeth in the front due to having what the adoption group called "crate hate" while at the track. She's had no issues with the crate in our home and prefers to sleep there even though she's welcome in our bedroom. She is forbidden from getting on the furniture and doesn't even try.


While a little stand-offish the first few months, Barraza has mellowed and now likes to be hugged gently. She's become a very sweet, quiet companion and more "snuggly" by the week. My wife and I have taught her basic commands and she has picked them up astoundingly fast.


About the fear agreession:


First, she does not like to be touched while she is lying down. She will bark. We respect this and are working with her by first giving her a down command, then a treat, then petting. She never barks when we do this. She also doesn't like having toys taken from her without bartering with a better treat, but this is understandable.


Second, and the main reason for this post, she has had two instances of snarling, growling and barking while standing up when one of us is leaning over her to either brush her hindquarters or try to remove some debris. The second time was tonight. I was leaning over her trying to remove a piece of debris from where her belly meets her back leg on the side and suddenly she turned on me, snarling and barking, baring teeth (or what would be teeth if she still had them). She stands her ground, does not advance on either of us and eventually retreats to her crate where she just growls for a little while.


My response in both instances was to insert myself between Barraza and my wife, say "No!" several times and stand my ground. Tonight she turned to go into her crate but turned back around to bark and snarl at me again, and I again said "No!" When she turned again to go toward her crate, I did something I'm not proud of: I gave her a bit of a swat on the rear with my hand. She went into her crate and laid down, I closed the crate door, and she growled if we made eye contact with her for the next 30 seconds or so. We then exited the room to give her a "time out."


It seems obvious there is something triggering her fear here, and it involves us leaning over her when she's moving and trying to touch her back half.


I try not to take these incidences personally, because I know they're not. Still it upsets me and makes me concerned about her doing this to a guest in our house.


Has anyone had a similar issue with their grey and, if so, what helped? It's been some time since the first incident and I had kind of thought we'd put all that behind us through more bonding and trust. Seems like there's some trauma memory there.


I'll be glad to provide more detail and look forward to any responses.IMG_20141121_204614348_HDR_zpshuhriqw1.j

Edited by jonathan_stone
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You don't say how old she is?


Given her non-reaction to her crate at home, it's unlikely that she hated her crate at the track. Many greyhounds develop OCD-type habits that include chewing/gnawing on the bars of their crates. It's a calming behavior usually connected with boredom.


Her incidents of barking aren't aggression, per se. They are related to her anxiety of being touched/loomed over while she's laying down, transferred to when she's standing up. Does she let you touch her hindquarters at any time? Is it simply a matter of training yourself to not reach over her until she is more trusting? Five months may seem like a long time to us humans, but it's not a long time for some dogs.


Good for you for not taking it personally. Just keep reminding yourself and your wife that barking and growling are the only way she has to communicate her anxiety. Her strong reaction indicates a fairly high level of stress associated with those particular actions.


Many greyhounds are particular about how they are touched. My husband and I have both been bitten by dogs who were that way when frist adopted. One took several years, but she is now fine to sleep and cuddle with on the bed, whether lieing down or standing. The other is much better but still doesn't like to be loomed over or feel enclosed in any way after 2 1/2 years.


It's possible that she may become better in time all on her own. You can do a search here for "sleep startle" for some ideas about how to help you all get through this. My first thought is to use a lot of yummy treats and combine it with a more pleasurable activity like brushing her coat. Do short sessions and try not to let her reach her threshold for growling. Also, never touch her when she doesn't expect it - always call her name first and talk to her while you are petting her. Don't bend over her. I would also keep her away from guests until you can be more sure she won't become anxious around them.


A plug-in DAP diffuser and/or collar may also help her be calm and settle into your home a bit better.


If you don't seem to be making progress, or she becomes anxious enough to escalate her response, seek the advice of a) you adoption group; and b ) a qualified behaviourist.

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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Guest jonathan_stone

Thank you, greysmom for your reply.


Barraza is going to turn five years old next month.


She allows us to touch her hindquarters, back, belly, anything as long as it doesn't fall into these criteria: 1) We can't be standing directly over her (i.e. "amidships" if she were a boat), and 2) she can't be trying to move away from us, even subtly. The first episode of barking and growling happened when my wife was standing over her, trying to brush her while Barraza was beginning to move away a little. Tonight's incident was immediately preceded by me sitting on the floor with her, petting her while she was standing and even wrapping my arms around her gently (which she seems to like). It was all very calm and sedate. When I stood up, my wife asked about some piece of debris near her hindquarters and while the dog was moving in circles I leaned over her to try to brush it away. That's when she went nuclear.


Thank you for your advice and comments. We'll continue to try to avoid triggering this response. Failing that we'll contact a behaviorist.

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Please get the help of a professional. I can help you find someone who uses reward based training and has a good background in behavior if you tell where you live. In the meantime, avoid doing things you know may set her off (including the asking her to lie down and then petting her) and PLEASE don't correct her if she reacts again. Just increase the distance between you and her as quickly as possible and leave her alone and then don't make the same mistake again. Unfortunately punishment can often increase aggression and it sounds like that's what's happening here.


Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest jetska

I may be off base here, but are you sure she doesn't have a sore back? Barbie is definitely more jumpy when her back is sore but not in all scenarios, just ones where she feels she might be hurt.

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I agree with the advice to seek professional help, and to investigate any sources of physical discomfort with a thorough vet check. Trainers and behaviorists vary greatly in their level of experience and methods, and inappropriate training methods can make behavior worse. Be careful who you choose, and always be your dog's advocate and don't let a professional do anything that you're not comfortable with.


Dogs can be very sensitive to subtle body language and posture. You're doing a good job recognizing the specific actions and scenarios that trigger her reaction. Leaning over a dog can be very intimidating if she hasn't learned to fully trust you yet. Dogs almost always show more subtle signs of stress and discomfort before they have a full blown meltdown. The shifting away from you is probably one of those signs. If you miss the more subtle signs and continue to do what was making them uncomfortable, the dog has no other way of communicating their discomfort than to escalate to the growling, snarling, or barking. She's simply trying to communicate with you. If you continue to push her by becoming more threatening when she acts this way, it could easily lead to snapping and biting.


Here's a good article to help you recognize the subtle signals dogs use to show their discomfort. Respect her boundaries, and she will learn to trust you with time.


Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice


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Suggest you read Patricia McConnell's "The Other End of The Leash." Many dogs don't like to be hugged. It's not a normal behavior to them. To her, you're trying to restrain her. Greyhounds have a particularly keen "fight of flight" response. Restraining her eliminates "flight" so all that is left is "fight." McConnell is very helpful explaining how dogs see some of our body language and also details how to interact with your dog in a way that she will understand.


NEVER use the crate as punishment. It's supposed to be her safe zone.


Never bother her when she's laying in the crate or on a dog bed. And she's made it clear as mud she doesn't like you looming over her--so stop doing it. There are other ways--call her to you, for example.


Also note: some greyhounds sleep with their eyes open. My first one did. I learned the hard way to ALWAYS say his name and clap my hands when he was on his bed to make sure he actually was awake. He had sleep aggression, and that's how I learned to deal with it.


What was her racing name? I'd love to look her up and see if she happens to be related to my George!


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

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Just increase the distance between you and her as quickly as possible and leave her alone and then don't make the same mistake again. Unfortunately punishment can often increase aggression and it sounds like that's what's happening here.


Yes! Don't worry about correcting or being the alpha or standing your ground or making eye contact.

Aggression breeds aggression. Correcting her in an aggressive way is likely to trigger a vicious cycle of aggression on her part.

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From what you've said, this sounds like a fairly normal reaction by a somewhat nervous new dog (and five months is quite new, really) to someone showing her a threatening behaviour. As others have said, dogs don't much like people leaning over them, and they don't like being hugged, and they don't appreciate long eye contact with people they don't know well and feel they can trust. Learn the social signals, either from the excellent Patricia McConnell book 'The Other End of the Leash' or the link which you've been given, and you may find that it all becomes clear to you. If so, all you need to do is develop some trust between you and respect her boundaries. Incidentally, we've found that those boundaries often disappear once that trust has been properly formed, though sometimes they just shift a bit in your favour.

Great idea to get a thorough health check for pain issues. One of the big reasons Jeffie growled and would have bitten (if he'd not been such a wuss) when we adopted him was an undiscovered, deep, painful mouth ulcer. So clearly out of fear that he'd be hurt, each time anyone went to touch his head, he reacted badly. He growled, yelped, and leapt clean into the air like a bucking bronco.


Good idea also to ask for a behaviourist to assess her. They will be able to see first hand what the problem is, and all we can do reading a forum is try to understand what is happening from what you've written. There may be important things you haven't thought to include, and our answers are going to be coloured by our own personal experiences.. but from what you've said, I feel that trust is the key issue here. She is warning you that you are pushing her beyond what she's comfortable with, and by punishing her when she warns you (yelling, mostly, and almost certainly threatening body language when you insert yourself between her and your wife), you haven't been helping the situation. It's really not a good idea to teach a dog that it is not okay to warn you, since that's when you're likely to get bitten 'without warning'. Even so, there is always a warning. You may not see or recognise it, but there always is one - there'll be body language. It may be subtle, but it will be there to be seen if you know what to look for.

Hopefully, this will be a fairly easy fix, once you understand each other, but don't take chances. Work on building trust and see how you go. :)


The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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I may be off base here, but are you sure she doesn't have a sore back? Barbie is definitely more jumpy when her back is sore but not in all scenarios, just ones where she feels she might be hurt.

This was my first thought, too. That she might be reacting because of pain or anticipating pain in some area - back, flank, etc.

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As others have noted, bending over the dog can be very threatening. One can also startle a dog, especially a new or distracted one, by touching her somewhere out of eye-range when she doesn't expect it. With a nervous, distracted, or otherwise touchy dog, I'll always start with hand on neck or shoulder and then slide hand gently, not too fast, to where it needs to go (down a leg, over to butt to brush off yard debris, 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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You have already been given some excellent advice, I just wanted to add always use your voice before your hands....it just gives her fair warning....be gentle and patient, she is just coomunicating with you the only way she knows how....it sounds like you don't take her reaction to you too personally....keep up the good work.

<p>"One day I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am"Sadi's Pet Pages Sadi's Greyhound Data PageMulder1/9/95-21/3/04 Scully1/9/95-16/2/05Sadi 7/4/99 - 23/6/13 CroftviewRGT

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Guest Amber

It seems like she won't accept being handled all over her body or anyway is not comfortable with it.


This could very likely be down to lack of proper socialisation as a small puppy ie the breeder didn't get her used to handling. Unusual though for a racing dog as they do need to be handled. Or she may have had an unpleasant experience - at the vet for example. Or she's in pain. Or she has a skittish personality and doesn't trust you fully yet.


how to deal with it, well i would be as hands off as possible and gradually build up trust BUT you very rightly point out that other people who come in contact with her may not know that she dislikes being touched and loomed over so yes, i fully agree a professional behaviourist to evaluate and recommend a treatment plan is the best option?


Unfortunately even minor aggression such as this can escalate into bites if the wrong circumstances occur, so it's best to get a professional rather than take advice over the net, where we can't see the dog.


Good luck, I'm sure things will improve with the right help.

Edited by Amber
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I know it's been suggested already, but I would second or third taking her for a vet check--it's always best to rule out an issue with pain before assuming a behavioral issue.

Beth, Petey (8 September 2018- ), and Faith (22 March 2019). Godspeed Patrick (28 April 1999 - 5 August 2012), Murphy (23 June 2004 - 27 July 2013), Leo (1 May 2009 - 27 January 2020), and Henry (10 August 2010 - 7 August 2020), you were loved more than you can know.

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