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Slowing Down, And "stalking" Some Dogs When Walking


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Guest AtticusMom

Hi all!

I had an account many years ago on this forum, but it became inactive long ago. I would appreciate your thoughts on a behavior I’ve noticed when walking our wonderful new grey. Background: Atticus is 2.5 years old, never raced, and did live in a home for six months, but previous owners felt he wasn’t cat workable, and he was returned to the group. We adopted him in January of this year.

We’ve had greyhounds for over a decade, and feel experienced with the breed, but Atticus is exhibiting a behavior that we haven’t seen before. And, my online research has proven to be a bit contradictory: i.e., could be aggressive, could be submissive, fear-based or even initiating play! I suspect Atticus’s behavior may be fear-based, but am also worried that this may be an aggressive behavior.

Here’s our situation: When we go for our walk, on occasion, when another dog is coming toward us, Atticus will slow his pace down significantly, focus his gaze on the dog, and lower his body to a crouching stance. As if he is in a “stalking” motion. At this point, I am unable to get his attention. This doesn’t happen with every dog we encounter. In fact, it has only happened with about five dogs, and we encounter a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, both on and off lead. We walk every day, for at least an hour.

This morning when I observed the behavior, the oncoming dog was off leash. A couple of other times this occurred, the dogs were on a leash. The dogs were of varying size from medium, to small. The first time I observed this behavior with another dog on-lead, I introduced Atticus to the dog. When we got up to sniffing range, his body appeared to relax, he stopped crouching, and his tail began to wag (albeit cautiously).

In the case of the off leash dog today, Atticus came to a full halt, almost falling back on to his butt when the dog reached us. I was unable to keep him moving forward (which is what I would prefer to do). As the dog passed us, Atticus spun around in the direction the dog was walking. He may have tried to jump/lunge, but I had his leash so short, it was difficult to tell. I am unsure how to interpret this. He did not bark, or growl, etc.

More often than not, if I can avoid having my dog meet another dog head-on, I always try to do that. Ideally, I like to arc around another dog. However, sometimes when you’re out walking that isn’t possible. And, sometimes it’d be nice to chat with people in the neighborhood every now and then, too. Safety first though, of course.

More background: at Atticus’s previous home, he escaped the house via an open door (we’re not sure how long he was gone for), and apparently was a bit traumatized by this. We’ve observed during our walks that he is hesitant to pass parked cars (though he seems to be building up confidence with this), and slowly moving cars. Today on our walk, he was startled (to the point of leaping into the air), by a slow moving SUV driving close by us. Could stressful events stack onto each other during a walk, and "cause" all of these various behaviors?

Medical wise: Atticus had a severe ear infection when we adopted him (he had to be sedated to have his ears cleaned, they were ulcerated and bleeding). He was taking pred and antibiotics for 6 weeks. Other than that, he is in greyt health.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Does it seem as though his behavior is fear-based, or could it be something else? Any thoughts on management? This morning on our walk, I had a handful of treats, when I spotted the off leash dog heading toward us. While it was in the distance Atticus was fine, and I had his attention. When the dog was a few feet from us, he stopped listening to me.

Very grateful for anyone that read all of this! :)

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Atticus sounds insecure. He has been with you a very short time and has been through an emotional transition changing homes. I suspect he is a bit depressed, confused, and traumatized. He is afraid and he is insecure. It comes out when he encounters a dog he cannot read right away. He sounds like he is getting ready for fight of flight. I don't think you have an aggressive dog on your hands. He would have already lunged and tried to attack. There would be no uncertainty about it.

 

My advice as always is to walk him as much as you can. This is particularly important with a young dog. The more encounters with dogs the better. He will quickly learn that nothing bad ever happens. Be vigilant and spot problems before they become issues but never show fear or nerves yourself. Atticus needs a fearless leader right now. If you can find a rock solid Greyhound to walk him with this may help a great deal. If you happen to be on Vancouver Island send me a PM. My big boy has a history of calming insecure dogs right down.

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Try to keep yourself between Atticus and the other dog. It is a sign to him that you are prepared to take control of the situation. It is not his job to decide if the other dog is friend or foe. It is yours.

 

Andy was attacked by a dog when he lived with his first family. The other dog walked to him and bit him in his head. He gets very agitated when unknown dogs walk towards us. He is the fear agressiv kind of dog. But he gets security when I keep myself positioned between him and his would be attacker.

Sorry for butchering the english language. I try to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

 

Nadine with Paddy (Zippy Mullane), Saoirse (Lizzie Be Nice), Abu (Cillowen Abu) and bridge angels Colin (Dessies Hero) and Andy (Riot Officer).

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Stewie does this too. I always try to get his attention by either a treat or actually stepping into his line of sight. It's always off leash dogs on the beach when this occurs for us.

Kyle with Stewie ('Super C Ledoux, Super C Sampson x Sing It Blondie) and forever missing my three angels, Jack ('Roy Jack', Greys Flambeau x Miss Cobblepot) and Charlie ('CTR Midas Touch', Leo's Midas x Hallo Argentina) and Shelby ('Shari's Hooty', Flying Viper x Shari Carusi) running free across the bridge.

Gus an coinnich sinn a'rithist my boys and little girl.

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Guest AtticusMom

Thank you all very much for your thoughts. I really appreciate it!

Kick Return: I agree totally with your advice to remain diligent with the walking. Atticus has a lot of energy, and is a smart dog! He definitely needs multiple physical and mental entertainment sources! We’ve always been dedicated about that, and even most of our seniors were able to enjoy quite lengthy walks.

A few weeks ago, a German Shepherd jumped its fence, and followed us across a busy street lunging and barking. When we were safely across the street, I placed Atticus behind me (he willingly went there), and held my ground while telling the Shepherd to “back off”. The dog’s owner was finally able to corral him. I was a bit shaken up by this (mostly because we were on a busy street), but Atticus didn’t seem affected at all.

Brandiandwe: I must admit I haven’t paid as much attention to those subtler signals during this behavior (but if/when it happens again, I will try to). I do know that there is a distinct difference between this behavior, and when Atticus sees a cat or a squirrel in the neighborhood. He will stand very erect, keep his momentum going (if anything he speeds up), sniffing in the direction of the cat/squirrel, lick his lips, and I can almost feel a quiver come up the lead. I will say he is easily distractible in this scenario, though.

smurfette: Yes, you’re absolutely right that the onus is on me to protect my dog. My ideal walking situation is to have another person walking with us. That way we can always create a “buffer” between us and a strange dog. Yesterday, I did place myself in front of Atticus, but the off leash dog then swiftly approached him from the side. As Atticus had come to a complete stall, we ended up getting stuck...

Charlies_Dad: That’s a good tip about stepping into his line of sight. I hadn’t thought to try that one.

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I don't think a dog would stalk something he was afraid of.

 

Buck does the exact same thing to squirrels, birds, etc. Seems like normal dog behavior to me! They are, after all, hunting dogs.


Hamish-siggy1.jpg

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

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Honestly, I don't think anyone can say without seeing the behavior in person. Stalking is a normal part of play and based on how you said he acted when he got up to the dog one time, that could be all this is. It's also possible it's fear related, but if it's a full on stalking body posture, play would be my first guess.

 

If any of the neighbor dogs that he does this too are WELL socialized, friendly and calm on leash I might ask the owner if you can let him approach. If he's afraid, he'll balk or hesitate when you encourage him to come along. If he comes along willingly or continues to stalk, I might try letting the dogs greet briefly with LOOSE leashes and see if he engages in play. Happy playful dog - tail is mid height and wagging or circling (helicoptering), fearful dog's tail is down or tucked, aroused dog's tail is high up and either stiff or fast wagging. The latter can go either way - arousal is on the sliding scale to aggression, but often arousal is just that, excitement over the other dog and once they can greet the dog will calm down. If I'm doing a leash greeting, it's always 1-2-3 then call the dogs away happily, give them a second and if they did well try again.

 

By the way, if an off lead dog approaches you again, I would leave your dog's leash loose. Tightening up on his leash leaves him cornered and he may become defensive as a result.

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

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 Amber

Having seen the behaviour you describe in my own greyhounds at various times I would agree with Kick Return that the most likely thing is insecurity/uncertainty about the oncoming dog, for whatever reason (perhaps the other dog's body language).

 

I personally do not like other dogs that we have never met before stalking my dog, yes it may be playful in some instances but can be mis-interpreted as rude or even a prelude to attack, due to the staring. It's all very subtle the differences, but in play, I think there would be a softer stance and non-threatening signals inbetween, such as cocking the head, turning the head away slightly...fixed staring at another dog that is a 'stranger' is never good news in my experience. Mostly the rigidity of the body posture, tightness of the jaw (mouth open and relaxed/excited or mouth firmly shut and jaw tense) and level of fixation in the staring will give a clue as to the motivations. If there is 'freezing' as well, then I would hazard a guess that insecurity/worry/confusion over the approaching dog is the reason. In other words, lack of confidence. If you've not had him long and he is young, confidence in the outside world and trust in you will grow with time.

 

In your shoes I would try to anticipate this behaviour and catch it early enough to cross the street or do the wide arc, before he gets too intense (not always easy to move them where you want to go I know!). My greyhound Fey did this at first (though more statuing than stalking and not all the time) but is really good with most other dogs, she doesn't tolerate rude boisterous behaviour though

Edited by Amber
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Guest Grant

My grey stalks cats, dogs, squirrels, people, kids, birds, me......you name it....he stalks it. He doesn't attack any of them....just stalks them. When he gets near them then he jumps up to be greeted. I know I should curve him of this behavior but its so funny to watch him and he always stays at my side even during the stalk.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest AtticusMom

Thank you all, for your thoughts. I apologize for the delayed response!

GeorgeofNE: I think you’re right. I love your signature pic, btw. :)

NeylasMom: I am working on adopting your “loose leash” advice. I do wonder if the biggest part of this issue is me tensing up on the lead, and Atticus was sensing that anxiety. We met a lovely collie on our walk during the week (both dogs were on the leash), and I noticed Atticus play bowed.

Amber: I agree with you, I wouldn’t appreciate an unfamiliar dog “stalking” my dog either. And, I also agree that the behavior is probably rooted in a lack of confidence (in the person walking him, and the world in general).

Grant: One of our first greyhounds “stalked” a rabbit. She nearly took my DH’s arm off. :D And, she remembered where the rabbit “lived” for a good few months, too. Made walking in that area quite the adventure.

We have continued to walk every day in our neighborhood. Atticus hasn’t done the “stalking” motion since I made this post. He’s doing really well, actually. I’m proud of him. :) I am continuing to work on my confidence, though. I think the experience we had where the German Shepherd jumped the fence, and followed us across a busy street, affected me a lot more than I realized. I’m sure it sounds silly, but it did get to me.

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If he play bowed at a dog while out on a walk I think the stalking was very likely play as well. A dog who will play bow to another dog on a walk isn't a dog that's insecure to me, at least not in that situation.

Edited by NeylasMom

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

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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  • 1 month later...
Guest Noosh

Stewie does this too. I always try to get his attention by either a treat or actually stepping into his line of sight. It's always off leash dogs on the beach when this occurs for us.

 

I had this happen yesterday, also on the beach. Emma went into a 'stalking' pose, and I hadn't seen this of her before. I did feel a little alerted to her demeanour, as she was extremely fresh that day! All turned out well; both doggies happy and waggly tailed when they met. If it happens again, I won't be so worried.

It is a little scary though when you see another dog off leash start this behaviour- my heart skipped a beat when on the beach again, a very large Maremma locked down on us. Thankfully, his surfer dude owner was able to call him. Phew!

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