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My labrador is nervous when we have house visitors

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by lizzieb, Dec 6, 2017.

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    lizzieb

    lizzieb New Member Registered

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    Hello, I have a 3 year old lab called Poppy. She's a very excitable dog and is usually very bouncy when she meets people on our walks.
    Having said that, when we have friends/family over to our house, the majority of the time she is incredibly quiet and almost cowers in her bed. If they go near her, you can see the whites in her eyes, her ears go back and she looks incredibly uncomfortable. She's never bitten anyone, but sometimes we have to tell visitors not to pet her too much because you can tell she is uncomfortable - I wouldn't want to push her over the edge and make her feel like she has to bark/bite.
    We have tried putting her out in the garden when the visitors arrive, but then when she comes in her happy behaviour changes and she leaves the room and displays the nervous behaviour.

    Can anyone help?
     
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    JoanneF

    JoanneF Active Member Registered

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    I would make sure she has a safe bolt hole to go to - her bed, crate, another room - and give her a long lasting treat like a frozen kong or pizzle when anyone arrives. Then leave her be - tell your visitors they mustn't disturb her under any circumstances. She IS displaying anxious behaviour so your visitors should absolutely not attempt to stroke her or pet her. She is giving you very clear signals she doesn't like other people; you and they need to respect that.
     
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    lizzieb

    lizzieb New Member Registered

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    Hi, we’ve tried this before and it does keep her occupied but once she has finished she still stays well away from us and our visitors. I suppose, yes, it is good that she keeps herself away and isn’t forced to interact with people she isn’t comfortable with. But it makes me feel upset that she is so anxious and won’t come near anyone.
    I was wondering if there were any tips people had to make her feel more comfortable around people, rather than putting her away. But maybe we won’t be able to achieve this and we’ll have to keep her separate at all times :/
     
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    Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Welcome @lizzieb, aww poor Poppy! Has she had a bad experience with visitors in the past? seeing as she is happy and bouncy when you're out on walks? Does she react the same to people who try and stroke her whilst you're on a walk?

    Like @JoanneF I would create a safe place for her to go if she feels uncomfortable. Our lab Dennis is good with people (barks quite a lot at strangers in the house but not too upset with that!) but he does struggle if we have a house full. When this happens he often disappears to his bed upstairs where he feels happy.

    Could you possibly try getting your visitors to give her a treat when they enter the house? or if that's too stressful just throw it in her direction so she see's them as a good thing not a bad one.

    If Den doesn't know someone well that enters the house (Tesco delivery driver for example) I ask them to wait for him to come to them rather than them forcing themselves on him for dog cuddles! He's defiantly much happier when it's on his terms

    Hope that helps you a little bit :)
     
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    lizzieb

    lizzieb New Member Registered

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    Hi Josie, she’s totally fine on our walks. She can have quite a boisterous personality on our walks (very excitable and a bit OTT sometimes ) but she is fine with other people on the whole. She isn’t the most cuddly of dogs, but is 100% fine with being stroked.
    She does tend to sneak off to one of her many beds when we have guests which is fine, and we leave her be.
    It’s just a shame because lots of people expect to be greeted by her and be able to stroke and play with her (like they can on walks) but she isn’t okay with it in the house for some reason!
    There are a few exceptions however! My neighbour (large man with deep voice), my aunt and cousin (small women) can come to our house and she’ll be all over them! So bizarre haha! :)
     
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    JoanneF

    JoanneF Active Member Registered

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    You could try giving one of your regular guests a super smelly and tasty treat - frankfurter sausage cut into tiny pieces is good - and IF your dog is quiet and relaxed, as they pass her bed they could drop (not toss) a few pieces. Then IF she approaches they could offer some.

    The main concern for me is that humans are rubbish at reading canine body language. Dogs give a series of signals that they are unhappy, but unfortunately most people don't recognise them because they can be quite subtle. To begin with there is often wide eyes, lip licking and yawning. There is also muscular tension in the body. Then the ones we sometimes do see - growl, snarl, nip then bite. If the early signals are not seen (or, in the dog's view, ignored) he won't bother with them because us stupid humans pay no attention anyway; so he may go straight to the bite. So it's important to be extremely tuned into her body language.
     
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    JudyN

    JudyN Active Member Registered

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    Accept her for what she is, and not what you'd like her to be. Let her stay in her safe place, and I'm not sure I'd even get people to throw or drop treats for her, at least for now. Some are bound to at least try to make eye contact or talk with her, and she's not ready for that yet.

    Be aware that if someone 'happens' to have a delicious bit of sausage on them and she approaches them, this isn't necessarily a good thing - the sausage may tempt her to move out of her comfort zone and once the sausage has gone she may think 'Eek, scary person, too close!!' and be stressed again.
     
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    Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    aw it's a shame for her and you that she feels so nervous in the house. Very strange that she feels that way inside the house but is happy and bouncy outside! If she's left to her own devices and the visitor isn't overly keen in her, will she come and say hello then?
     
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    JoanneF

    JoanneF Active Member Registered

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    You could also try an Adaptil diffuser when guests are expected. Adaptil gives a scent that replicates the hormone a bitch has after having puppies and has a calming effect on dogs. But I still think leaving her to be alone is good advice. If you were afraid of snakes, forcing you to confront them close up isn't going to help; just make things worse. So let her be in her own space if she is relaxed there.
     
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    Amity

    Amity New Member Registered

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    Have a darling boy with me at present who spent 12 weeks in police kennels.
    He is the most lovable boy, but when someone enters the house he can react, normally shaking...or barking at a distance from guests.
    I put this down to his experience of being kennelled for so long, but to over come this I always have hot dogs on hand for anyone coming in. (Sounds bizarre!) but a hot dog goes a long way for this lad. And always tell anyone coming in to ignore him. He will come to them if and when he feels ready.
    And as stated above, make sure they have their own space to escape to...X
     
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