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Aggression Toward/fear Of Visitors In Our Home.


Five
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Hello. My wife and I recently adopted a 2 year old male greyhound about 6 weeks ago. Overall he has been settling in really great and seems comfortable and at ease most of the time. However, I am seeking advice whether there's anything we can be doing to help him not be so fearful or timid when meeting new people, particularly while in our home. Overall he is inherently shy and typically won't let strangers pet him. Even if he's met someone before it doesn't seem to matter. However, I wouldn't describe him as excessively fearful either - just guarded. He'll approach and sniff, but from a distance and on his own terms. Sometimes (not always) we can entice him to accept treats from a stranger, but that show of goodwill never parlays into him allowing them to pet him.

 

My wife is a singing teacher who works from home and she teaches anywhere from 2 to 10 students in our living room per day. Part of the reason we became interested in greyhounds as a breed in the first place is because they aren't known as incessant barkers and they're typically used to being handled by strangers due to the kennel environment - both traits that are essential given my wife's line of work. Luckily, the singing and loud sounds don't seem to phase him at all.

 

The first two weeks in our home he hardly payed any attention to the students, I think because at that point in his adjusting to our home there was very little differentiation to him between his relationship to them versus to us. The following two weeks we were essentially snowed in together, so no students came to the house and during that period is when he truly became acquainted with us and began to bond to us. However, since my wife began teaching again about a week ago he has growled, barked, and sometimes lunged at her students on several occasions. Again, he didn't pay any attention to them at all for two weeks at first so we had thought that he was comfortable with guests at the house. But now that he is comfortable with the house and with us he seems to perceive visitors as a threat. Now we are wondering what to do, especially if we can't get it under control soon. We can't afford to sacrifice my wife's livelihood for the dog.

 

Ever since he began acting out I have tried to carefully oversee and observe all of his introductions/interactions with the students. All of the students have been very gentle, non-threatening, and respectful in how they approach him. In fact, he never starts out the gate barking or posturing aggressively. Typically, he'll come over in an innocuously curious fashion at first just to see who has arrived, and then after 10-30 seconds he'll suddenly bark aggressively and assume a defensive (and aggressive, from the student's perspective) posture without warning. Clearly, for some reason or another he is fearful of them in that moment even though they haven't done anything to warrant that response.

 

After we intervene he calms down and pretty much doesn't pay them any mind for the remainder of their lesson. Overall it's a pretty minor interaction, and if you have prior experience with dogs it's pretty easy to recognize that he's not acting purely out of aggression and that there's no need to be fearful. However, my wife has no prior dog experience, and it's clearly a rattling experience for her students as well. Plus, he's a big boy, which in itself can be intimidating. Also, although I discourage it, lately he's started following them around afterward out of curiosity to the point of being uncomfortably close in some cases. I'm sure this is very intimidating for the students, and if it led to another outburst that would be very bad.

 

My primary question is are there any exercises or training we can be doing to accelerate the process of him becoming comfortable with strangers in our home (and in general)? I'm sure that in a few more weeks/months he'll naturally acclimate to the parade of strangers in our home, but I don't think we can afford to keep up the "I'm really sorry, I don't know why he did that" response for much longer. Also, I have been working from home as well during the entire time since we adopted him. So not only have I been around to oversee his interactions with students, but I've been primarily responsible for his needs throughout the day and he spends most of the day following me around. However, I go back to work exactly a week from today, and if there's anything we can be doing between now and then to make him less fearful of strangers it would really help give me peace of mind. Given my wife's overall inexperience with dogs I worry about something happening while I am gone.

 

Clearly the obvious solution is to crate him up whenever company is here, but I really don't see that being a long term solution given the large number of people we have over during any given week. However, perhaps in the short term that would possibly help to get him accustomed to the frequent visitations and perhaps reduce any associated stress he may be feeling? Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks!

 

- Derrick -

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He's still very new to living in a home and establishing a routine. Let him approach them when he's ready.

 

If you haven't done so, I would make a crate available for him to go into when he isn't comfortable with his surroundings. Leave the crate door open and make sure he can get to it. He needs what he considers to be a safe space of his own. I might even crate him while students are in the house just to be safe, but will let others chime in with thoughts on that since none of us are there to observe his behavior firsthand.

 

The growl is a warning that he isn't comfortable with the situation. Let the students know that he is still learning how to live in a home and have them pretty much ignore him for now. He will come to them on his own terms when he's ready. A year from now he may ignore them entirely because students going in and out will be old news.

 

Good luck.

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Camp Broodie. The current home of Mark Kay Mark Jack and LaVida I've Got Life.  Always missing my boy Rocket Hi Noon Rocket,  Allie  Phoenix Dynamite, Kate Miss Kate, Starz Under Da Starz, Petunia MW Neptunia and Diva Astar Dashindiva 

 

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I've had several voice teachers who crated their dogs during lessons with no problems. One dachsund's crate was underneath my teacher's grand piano! Why is it not a long term solution?

 

I would definitely not allow him to interact with students much at all, one way or another. Either crate him or have him segregated in a nearby room behind a baby gate (so he can still see out). You need to start leaving him alone anyway, since you need to find out if he has separation anxiety before you go back to work and your wife needs to leave the house!

 

He *may* become accustomed to visitors, but it's by no means certain, so you need to have plans that are both flexible and workable long AND short term.

 

You can help by getting some DAP diffusers for the house in general and the room where he will be during lessons. A frozen Kong might help keep his attention away from visitors too.

 

If your students are brave and amenable have them give hima REALLY SUPER YUMMY treat when they first come in the door. I mean super yummy, so he's looking forward to every person who comes through the door - roasted chicken, cheese, bacon pieces, liverwurst - what ever is the thing he finds the most irresistible.

 

Otherwise your wife should give the treat. She also needs to be doing more of his daily care so he bonds with her, and she gets used to handling him.

 

Don't force him to interact with them beyond that. Get the treat, praise praise praise, then off to his lesson spot, with another treat. Make it a part of the routine so he knows what to expect every time.

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

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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

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i should have clarified. we don't force interactions. i would be more than happy if he just stayed far away from the door when we invite people in, but he approaches them on his own volition out of curiosity. in fact, i told my wife to grab him by the collar when she opens the door to create space so he's not coming face to face with the students as soon as the door opens, and to hopefully give him time to realize that we are actively welcoming their presence. although today was the first day attempting that approach it doesn't seem to help, at least not yet.

 

crating him is not a long term solution for two reasons. one, it means the dog will be crated in his own home for sometimes as many as 8 consecutive hours per day on the off chance that he might bark once or twice. seems like an over-reaction to adopt that as a permanent solution. and in my opinion, the benefit to the dog of having an owner who works from home is precisely so they don't have to endure that sort of separation/restriction. secondly, my wife's work day is hectic enough as it is without having to add a crating routine to the mix as part of her student interactions. until recently he had (an admittedly brief) track record of overall obliviousness toward guests, and it seems entirely feasible to me - especially as a first choice - to find a way to help however i can to guide him back to that state of mind.

 

we've actually already done some very effective work in minimizing separation anxiety and for the most part that's not really an issue any more. i'm the one he follows around when my wife is busy with students during the day, but he's perfectly content to follow either of us when no one is here. she's more likely to treat him, so i actually lose out in that choice quite a lot.

 

i think asking my wife to treat him when students arrive makes a lot of sense. we'll give that a try!

Edited by Five
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Does your wife teach in the same room as the dog sleeps in the day time? I'm just wondering if after being snowed in for two weeks he now thinks of that room as his space.

 

You could try putting him in another room when visitors are coming and after they are in let him back in. I used to visit someone with a lovely retired police dog and she used to put him into the kitchen and let you into the main room before letting him in to be made a fuss of otherwise he'd pin you against the wall barking and trying to grab your arm.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) b. 18 June 2014 - Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 - Going grey gracefully
Guinness (Antigua Rum) b. 3 September 2017 - Gotcha Day 18 March 2022 - A gentleman most of the time

 

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It would still be a good idea to somehow separate him from the front door and the people going in and out. Especially since there is so much coming and going. It's very easy for a new dog to slip out.

 

I've been on both sides of going to and conducting professional voice lessons in a home setting. It takes very little time to work in safety and training and I would never begrudge the few minutes it takes someone to deal with a new dog. It's not like it's forever.

 

The added bonus is it gives him some deliberate space to evaluate what's going on, and you and your wife a chance to help him by making visitors seem really awesome! Baby gating him in an adjoining room or setting an xpen up in front of the door are easy fixes for creating space.

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

35764734494_93de5b5963_b.jpg

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

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There's some good advice here from knowledgeable greyhound people. Separation Distress may yet be a problem for your dog in the future. The most basic solution with the students is management. Keep the dog and students separate. Tell the kids to IGNORE the dog. Proceed from day to day, and week to week, gradually allowing some contact while the kids always completely ignore the dog. If you're not prepared to do this because of some reason, I'd seek the help of a trained Positive Reinforcement type trainer and/or behaviourist sooner rather than later. Cheers and best wishes. :)

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I would put your dog into a different room where he is baby-gated away from the students but, can watch the interactions. As the students become part of his daily routines, he will likely pay less attention to them. As others have noted, I would not let the dog have interactions with the students at this time.

 

You might also see if you can use a keyword like "singing work" to clue the dog that he should be quiet and lay down. If he does good, praise him and give him a treat at the end. I would not give him treats like a rawhide while the singing is going on as I would worry that he might think the children might take the treat and make his behavior worse unless the treat is one he can finish quickly.

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Agree with keeping him away from the door when people are coming in and out.

Let him observe the comings and goings from behind a baby gate.

 

Your wife should not have to handle opening the door and greeting people, taking coats, etc while holding the dog.

It only takes a split second for a dog to escape.

 

Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos).   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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Does your wife teach in the same room as the dog sleeps in the day time? I'm just wondering if after being snowed in for two weeks he now thinks of that room as his space.

 

You could try putting him in another room when visitors are coming and after they are in let him back in.

I've been on both sides of going to and conducting professional voice lessons in a home setting. It takes very little time to work in safety and training and I would never begrudge the few minutes it takes someone to deal with a new dog. It's not like it's forever.

 

The added bonus is it gives him some deliberate space to evaluate what's going on, and you and your wife a chance to help him by making visitors seem really awesome! Baby gating him in an adjoining room or setting an xpen up in front of the door are easy fixes for creating space.

Agree with keeping him away from the door when people are coming in and out.

Let him observe the comings and goings from behind a baby gate.

 

Your wife should not have to handle opening the door and greeting people, taking coats, etc while holding the dog.

It only takes a split second for a dog to escape.

 

thanks everybody for taking the time to leave your thoughtful and helpful responses!

 

the baby gate option makes a lot of sense. unfortunately, our home's floor plan doesn't make that possible. the main floor is where we spend most of our time during the day and contains the kitchen, dining room, entry way, and living room (where the lessons take place). the floor plan is open, with each room flowing into the next, creating a circle (the stairwell is the center of the circle). so, although the dog doesn't sleep in the exact same room as the lessons, you might be onto something, as the entire floor is pretty much his domain. furthermore, none of the openings between rooms are narrow enough for a gate, except one. but since the layout creates a circle we would need two points capable of being gated in order to be effective. additionally, erecting a bunch of barriers would complicate things since the students need access to pretty much the whole floor in order to use the restroom and/or use our water/tea station. the floor plan doesn't accommodate a barrier configuration that doesn't also restrict the students' access to areas they need to access to.

 

it's really only the first two minutes that a new person is here that he's likely to feel threatened. that's the part that we need to manage. once the lesson starts he goes off and lays down somewhere. sequestering him to some small section of the house for the entire lesson would be unnecessary in my opinion. and like i said, adding some complicated penning/un-penning routine for my wife to perform every hour on top of her current responsibilities is not ideal. however, if that's necessary in the short term until he is more comfortable we could try it.

 

as for him slipping out, that isn't an issue. our main floor has an enclosed deck and the first thing i did was build a gate at the top of the stairs, so even if he were to slip out he would be contained to the deck. sometimes i just let him out there to get fresh air and squirrel watch.

 

i forgot to clarify. people always assume when i say "students" that i am referring to children, but my wife's students are actually all adults. children have a more stressful energy that would make the situation more problematic, but luckily that's not the case.

 

we've already trained him to lay down on his bed in the kitchen while we get his food or treats from the pantry so he's not pestering us, and he's not allowed to get up until we give the command. he's actually a fairly quick learner. so my plan is to attempt a similar protocol for when guests arrive. today was my first attempt at it. i made him sit there when the students arrived (his bed has a direct sightline to the front door) and i just shoveled treats into his mouth until the lesson began in the other room, at which point i turned him loose and he went about his merry business. she only taught two lessons today, so not very many opportunities so far, but i'll keep it up through the rest of the week. i really like that idea of using a word cue as a command for guest arrivals. i'll try to work that in too. hopefully a pattern will be established by the time i go back to work next week!

Edited by Five
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Sounds like a positive experience for him today

:thumbs-up

 

Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos).   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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Why do you let the students approach him in the first place when you know he does not like it? Just kennel him while the students are there. Nothing wrong with dog here. And whatever you do stop trying to force him to like other people by getting them to give him treats and to approach him. That will only set him back. If you want any hope of him becoming more socialable you must let him do it on his own terms. In fact what you really need to do is protect him from strangers and let him see that YOU will protect him from what he is not sure about. Then, hopefully, one day he will realize that HE does not need to be afraid because he knows that YOU will protect him. It can be amazing to watch the transition. You need to work hardest at building engagement with him and not expecting him to act like an experienced mature dog yet. He NEEDS you to do right by him but there is nothing the wrong with him. Go slow.

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Why do you let the students approach him in the first place when you know he does not like it? Just kennel him while the students are there. Nothing wrong with dog here. And whatever you do stop trying to force him to like other people by getting them to give him treats and to approach him. That will only set him back. If you want any hope of him becoming more socialable you must let him do it on his own terms. In fact what you really need to do is protect him from strangers and let him see that YOU will protect him from what he is not sure about. Then, hopefully, one day he will realize that HE does not need to be afraid because he knows that YOU will protect him. It can be amazing to watch the transition. You need to work hardest at building engagement with him and not expecting him to act like an experienced mature dog yet. He NEEDS you to do right by him but there is nothing the wrong with him. Go slow.

i never said anything was wrong with the dog, nor did i ever imply that he was behaving in some manner that i didn't understand from his perspective. i was merely asking for advice on how to make him feel more comfortable around people. so in that regard i appreciate your advice and i will try to implement it. in fact, your advice of actively keeping him distant from them as they enter while also showing him that he's protected and safe seems to me to be exactly the approach i've recently taken, which i outlined in the last paragraph of my previous comment.

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