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Nervous dog for no apparent reason

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Rachel2832, Apr 1, 2018.

  1. Rachel2832

    Rachel2832 New Member Registered

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    My parents dog has been with them since he was a puppy, very well socialised always taken to different places with them and met loads of people, but since he turned one he started barking at a random person every now and then, and seeming very scared and nervous when meeting new people (but not everyone some people he warms to instantly) It’s usually if they come in the house, or walk into a pub when he is are already there. And usually men?

    This dog has been treated well all his life, no abusive training, socialised.. where has this come from?
     
  2. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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    I'm not sure but I think it could be fear aggression. I'm sure more people would be able to help :)
     
  3. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    Violet, "barking at certain strangers" is NOT fear-aggression. :p For starters, aggression means, well... aggro, as in actual bites, or at the minimum, threats to bite. // He's not threatening; it sounds more like alarm-barking at intruders, in the OP's post.

    In this case, based on the description, it's only a mild timidity, & it's situation-specific:
    it either happens at home, the dog's most-familiar setting, when someone 'invades' it - or if it happens away from home, it's only when they've been in a particular setting for awhile, the dog has settled in & met everyone, & here comes a stranger... again, invading the now-familiar place.

    Given the scenario, this should be easy to DS/CC, DeSensitize & Counter-Condition:
    invite everyone U know to the house - if that's a lot of ppl, so much the better; space 'em out over 3 or 4 Saturdays, with 5 to 10, or even 15 to 20 strangers, coming over each separate day. // Every time a stranger arrives, give the dog PLENTY of setback from the door - he should be able to see the door, but be sufficiently far from it that he's not threatened & doesn't bark.
    [If the apt / house is too small to give him that much setback, IME, U need to buy a Calming Cap B4 proceeding further. U don't want to flood the dog, especially in his own home, where he deserves to feel safe.]

    If U can put 12 to 20-ft between him & the door, that's great - to do that, U might need to take him onto a balcony or patio with a line-of-sight to the main door. The dog is on leash; the stranger enters, & as he watches them enter, an endless string of small-but-high-value tidbits is presented to him. As fast as he swallows one, the next is in front of his nose. // After a dozen pea-sized or half-pea sized bits of protein, slow down & space them at half the speed - enuf to keep his attn, but not as rapid. After 6 more, he should be past the initial shock of an intruder to his home, & ought to be recovering.
    NOW - if he's able to focus on U - U can ask him to do something simple, & reward it. Previously, the process was pure association, which is noncontingent; no matter what the DOG is doing, the presence of the trigger means he gets goodies -- stranger = Good Things Happen. But once he's less stressed, U can shift to contingent rewards: cued behavior earns goodies.

    Every new person coming in is the occasion for at least a dozen high-value, small tidbits in a rapid chain; then 6 to 10 more tidbits at "half speed", with a brief pause between; & finally, 5 to 10 simple cued behaviors that are each rewarded. If he can't do the cued behaviors after approx 22 to 24 tidbits, I'd take him to another room, or at least out of the line of sight of the stranger, to let him unwind in peace.
    If he has a shipping crate, i'd crate him & eave him in a quiet LOCKED room away from the party, with a long-lasting hunk of busywork - antler, pizzle, stuffed & frozen Kong, cow-hoof, etc. // Then i'd give him a week with no strangers entering the house to get over it, & try again on my next day-off.

    Does that make sense? - Does it sound do-able?

    If the house / apt is too small for a nonreactive distance, he needs a Calming Cap, & that's a tool that needs a happy intro so he'll wear it willingly. // DAP or 'Adaptil' is also something i'd recommend, with or without the Calming Cap.

    - terry

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    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  4. Maggie Mul

    Maggie Mul Member Registered

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    I am following this thread as my 5 month old puppy barks constantly when people she doesn’t know enter the house. She is behind a stair gate but can see the door but begins to bark as soon as they set one foot in the house. If we can get her quiet we then open the gate and let her go and say hi. She will bark at them for a long time. We ask our visitor to ignore her but our pup continues to bark at them and gets rather close to them. Sometimes she will nip/bite their shoes or trouser leg or try and jump up and nip their hands. She will calm down eventually but then will start again intermittently throughout the evening. We have yet to figure out if it is fear or being territorial. We have stopped inviting people over as much as it got very stressful for everyone. Would you suggest the same protocol for this situation. She also does the same if people approach her when we are out. She is fine if they ignore her. She had always been like this and we got her when she was a little over 6 weeks old.
     
  5. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    Murphy was fine with people but he has had two meetings that have made him very wary. When he was only 12 weeks my neighbour who is a big guy anyway thought it was funny to tease him and make him bark by waggeling a yard broom in his face ( idiotic man) Im short with people like that but my OH just tried to avoid the confrontation.
    Second was when I was assulted by a man in the park. (assult is a strong word ) his off-lead JRT kept attacking Murphy who was only a pup on two occasions it drew blood so one day I stepped in front to keep it away from Murphy, the man took offense and got in my face shoving and threatening me. The police got involve etc etc but thats also made him wary.
    Not a food motivated dog treats mean nothing if he is set on something so for us its a case of avoiding triggers. If a stranger gets too close getting him to sit and wait until they pass etc.
    We dont have many visitors but when our mail man arrives with a parcel he has a treat which he only gives once Murphy is sitting nicely.. Ed is great with dogs.
     
  6. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Dogs have fear periods when an event that to us seems really insignificant has a big and lasting impact. I wonder if during one of his fear periods he might have encountered someone (who may have done absolutely nothing wrong, maybe just smelled of the 'wrong' aftershave). Anyway, to concur with Terry, there are things you can do but i am not sure i would recommend as many different people coming to the house, that could be overwhelming.

    There is also a product called Adaptil, it's an artificial hormone that replicates the one a bitch has after having puppies and acts as a calmative. It comes in a plug in, a spray, or a collar. Use it (a couple of hours before a visitor or a pub visit) so he is relaxed.

    I suggest that in the house have a safe bolt hole for him. Somewhere he can retreat to, with a cosy bed. Somewhere like behind a chair or if you have stairs the space under them is often good, but it can be anywhere. If he is crate trained it could be his crate. If a visitor is coming, give him a superspecial long lasting treat in his safe place, like a Kong with a frozen filling (maybe reserve this special filling only for these occasions). He hopefully will associate the treat with the visitors that were scary and come to realise they mean nice things happen. When a visitor comes, tell them to ignore him. Completely. And be very aware of their body language. Dogs find face to face, direct eye contact quite threatening so the visitor mustn't even look at the dog at first. As the passes the dog (after ignoring him for a few visits) he can drop - not toss - high value treats like pieces of chicken. He hopefully will learn the visitor's presence is a good thing and come to trust them but let him approach the visitor, not the other way round. He may well always be mistrustful of strangers but given time you can progress this.
     
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  7. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    This is exactly what I think happened with our neighbour and Murphy at 12 weeks. Larking about with a broom would seem silly to us and we might just forget about it but Murphy never has and everytime he sees that neighbour he barks, yet Sjoerd who lives next door gets greeted like a long lost relative everytime Murphy sees him.
     
  8. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    yes, Adaptil is a synthesized mimic of the pheromone produced by lactating bitches. :)
    Pheromones carry information, & often it's info that changes behavior - such as pheromones from F moths, which bring M moths who are downwind to mate. // In the case of DAP, Dog Appeasing Pheromone, its general purpose is to relax pups as soon as Mom returns, so that they settle & suckle quickly, rather than waste time stressing over her previous disappearance - DAP reduces many stress signals, including cortisol secretion, BP, pulse, & respiration rate.

    However, if U use it "a couple of hours" B4 an expected visitor or a trip to the pub, be sure to refresh it B4 they arrive, or B4 U depart - as it lasts about 90-minutes. It should be used 10 to 15-minutes B4 an expected stressor, to give it time to take affect - so if U used it 2-hours before a visitor's expected arrival, U would still use it again 10 to 5-mins B4 they plan to be there, so that it's again in play when they arrive.

    DAP / Adaptil is not sprayed on the dog; it goes on
    objects around the dog... so take off the collar, spritz the collar [each spray is a measured 'dose'], spritz the opposite side of the collar, put it back on the dog. B4 a walk, spray the leash a hand's-length from the clip, so every time it swings under the dog's nose, s/he gets some DAP.
    In cold weather, spray the back or fingers of yer gloves [not 'each' finger, one spray over the fingers]; spray the toes of boots for a toy-sized dog, or the outsides of the boots at the ankles; spray the outside SEAM of pants at knee-height for taller dogs.
    U can spray the upholstery where the dog sits when seat-belted, or the door-sill of the crate & the OPENING side of the crate door-frame, if the dog rides crated in the car.

    Anything washable can be sprayed w/o worry; garment suede & dry-clean-only clothing should not be sprayed with DAP. // Leather upholstery & smooth-leather garments should be OK, but test to be sure - spray in a hidden area, wait 24-hours, & look for color changing, color running, or texture change.
    U can spray table-legs for M dogs who leg-lift, but not if the table is an antique with varnish! - modern finishes should all be fine, but it's alcohol, so if it doubt, TEST. // Polyurethane finishes won't be hurt by DAP.
    If it's fine wood & U wax it with a paste-wax or cream-wax, it's probly *not* alcohol-safe.

    DAP / Adaptil is great stuff; U can refresh it ad lib, there are zero "dosage" worries & no interactions with food, meds, or anything else. :)

    - terry

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  9. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    If 15 different ppl come by over a 3-hour period, each staying for less than 2-minutes & not looking at the dog nor speaking to the dog, it's not that stressful, nor is it that intense. // It's brief, repeated, safe exposures, at a distance where the dog does NOT react - aware, yes, but not upset.

    The problem is that dogs don't generalize well - it takes many, many exposures for dogs to realize that "this is like --> that". So setting up a day that gives the dog multiple safe exposures in a brief time is one way to get the process started.

    Of course, U could also have 3 ppl enter the house 5 times EACH - they'd come in individually, stand or sit quietly at a distance for a minute to 90-seconds, exit, wait 30-seconds, come back in for 60 to 90-secs... That's about 15 minutes total out of the volunteer's day. Most family members or friends or good neighbors would be willing to do that, especially if U had coffee, cookies, or other refreshments on hand to consume while they sat. :)

    And incidentally, eating is one of those non-threatening behaviors that help dogs relax around strangers. A stranger who's happily engrossed in a snack is not nearly as scary as a stranger who's standing or sitting there, doing nothing - as at any minute, the person doing nothing might decide to do SOMEthing scary, while the person who's busy eating is busy doing something reassuring.

    - terry

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  10. Maggie Mul

    Maggie Mul Member Registered

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    I just thought I would up date what happened with our pup over the last couple of days. We intentionally invited people over to try and help our puppy get used to people in the house. We had stopped inviting people and we were missing our friends!! Anyway, the first couple we met outside the house with our pup who was on her lead. Intitially she was very excited to see them, as she always is when she sees strangers, wags her tail, has a sniff..... and then becomes fearful and starts barking......a lot!! We chatted outside on the drive for a little while until she was calmer. When she stopped barking, our visitors gave her a couple of pieces of chicken and then we began to walk to the house together. As soon as they entered, she barked but it wasn't for as long as I thought it would be. I kept her on a light weight leash, which didn't bother her, and she was able to potter about the house as normal. When our visitors were in the kitchen having a drink, so was absoloutely fine. As soon as they moved, laughed loudly, coughed, she started barking at them again!! It was almost as though she had forgotten they were there, and then she remembered!! Whilst we had dinner, she was in the dining room with us, and I brought in her bed and gave her a frozen kong! This was her dinner as I didn't feed her until we sat down to eat. this worked brilliantly and kept her busy for 30+ mins and calmed her down. Afterwards, she pottered about lying under the table, but continued to bark every now and then. We followed the same routine last night with a different visitor, and this worked well again. This time after her kong, she went and lay down under the table, right near out visitors feet!! Again if he moved to quickly or was too loud, she would bark, but on the whole she was much better. Greeting the visitors outside seems to work for our puppy and a frozen kong for dinner works wonders. I am keen to have people over more often now and have a bit more confidence about introducing her to people. We also took her for a long walk before our visitors arrived, so she would be quite tired. We also noticed that if our visitor ignored her she was fine, if they started talking to her, she would start the barking again. I can see that there is not going to be a short term fix for this but am hoping these strategies will help make things a little easier when we have people over.
     
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  11. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    what U describe as her pattern has a name: Sensitive to Environmental Change. :)
    When the visitors sit down & don't look at her, as long as they are stationary, she can cope; they can talk quietly & as long as they stay in the same place & make no sudden movements, she can pretend that things are normal.
    But it's a facade - if the visitor bends to pick up a bag to get out something [cigs, pen, photos, mobile...], BARK! If the visitor stands up to go to the loo or fetch a drink or snack, BARK! If the visitor coughs, sneezes, reaches for a napkin or tissue, changes position on the couch, BARK!...

    Now that U know her pattern, U can goof-proof her.
    I wouldn't let her wander round the house on a light line - she just keeps scaring herself, over & over, by being just a bit too close or in the wrong place when Something Changes, & she gets spooked, repeatedly. Even if it's mild & she recovers, she's making 3 strides forward & 2 back, over & over & over. // If she were mine, i'd put myself between her & my guests as a buffer, & i'd have her out of my arm's reach, at whatever distance from my guests that she could handle W/O barking when they move, more than once. Once is the desired max; twice is too many, & zero is the intended goal. I don't know how big yer place is, nor the layout, but try to find places that give her good distance but with line-of-sight to observe visitors as if they're aliens from another planet, & collect her data.

    For this, i'd either install a tether, or i'd make a portable tether & park it at a doorway, then clip her to it.
    Tethered to Success | Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation

    the portable tether is simple:
    2-ft length of 2 x 4, a 12 to 15" length of FREE bike-cable, & 2 swivel spring-clips clamped onto the ends.
    Screw a self-seating eyebolt 12-inches from either end into a wide side, clip the cable to it; pick a door to use as her 'station', it can be any door, but i wouldn't suggest the main entry - if someone knocks or rings, she's way, way too-close.
    A closet, an interior door to a bedroom, the back door to the garden, _____ . Open the door, lay the 2 x 4 behind it with the eyebolt side toward the door, angled toward the floor; slide the cable sideways UNDER the door, & close it. Clip the dog to the snap on the free end - she's now safely secured at a distance from the guests, she can't park herself under the dining table & bark every time someone drops a fork or clears their throat. :)
    She can see them, but they are not to look at nor speak to her; pretend the dog is a cat & terrified. Ignore her.

    I'd have a nice cushy bathmat with a nonslip underside if she was on hardwood or tile, or a folded towel or a low-profile 'bed' such as a vet-fleece, for the dog to lie on; I'd spray the 'bed' with DAP, at least 3 spritzes - each narrow end, & one in the middle, so no matter where she lies, she inhales it. // I'd set her up there with a nice long-lasting chewie, 3 to 6 times, B4 i ever have anyone visit - just to get accustomed to the idea.

    When my visitors arrived at a pre-set time, or texted me on arrival, I'd get up & go to the door BEFORE they knock or ring, & use the peephole or a nearby window to see when they reached my door. I'd open the door, greet them quietly & warmly, & i'd enter the room FIRST, so they are behind me & can't spook the dog. They sit on the 'exit' side of the room, nearest the main entry; I'd sit 1st, & i'd sit ______BETWEEN_______ my dog, who's to the 'inside' of the room, & my guests.
    I'd have a small tub of mixed tidbits close to me, handy for tossing; cubed chkn-breast, diced lean beef, 1/4-inch cubes of freeze-dried lamb-lung or beef-liver or green-tripe, freeze-dried whitefish, __________ .
    [TIP: If yer dog eats kibble, mix the fresh & freeze-dried bits with the kibble half-n-half in a ziplock, the day B4 U plan to train, & leave the bag, with the air expelled & tightly sealed, in the 'frig, overnite. Next day, the kibble smells fantastic, & the dog thinks every tidbit is gourmet fare. ;) ]
    I'd toss her a few tidbits JUST B4 i opened the door for my guests, 3 or 4 tossed so they're within her reach on the tether, & i'd have more in the other hand as i open the door; as i enter the room, i'd toss 1 or 2 more, then 1 or 2 B4 i sat down. -- Even if she didn't eat them, i'd keep tossing; *sniffing* is a calming behavior, so merely having them near her helps to lower her anxiety, as she can't help but smell them even if she doesn't lower her nose to investigate.

    As we sit & talk, I fling another tidbit at random intervals, more-often at 1st, then more spaced as she settles; once she lay down, i'd try to let her engage with her long-lasting chewie, & only toss a treat every 30 to 45-secs or so.
    If at any point something startled her & she barked - a guest laughed, a car drove by, kids passed the house calling to one another... - i'd toss 6 or 8 tidbits to her as a cluster, so she could find each one. [The mat helps keep'em from flying around the room.]
    If it's possible, i'd place the dog so my guests could reach the bathroom w/o passing between the dog & myself - U know the layout, is that possible?

    Once we moved to the dining table, i might need to move the dog so she still has line of sight of my guests - & i'd toss a half-dozen tidbits JUST AFTER we got up, myself 1st, then my guests - i'd stand, toss 1 or a pair, TheY'd stand, i'd toss about 6, they ignore the dog & precede me to the table.
    I'd move the dog if need be, with her portable tether & 'bed' & durable / edible chewie, to a new doorway at a nonreactive distance; during the meal, i'd still fling a tidbit, every now & then at random, & i'd toss 5 or 6 every time she reacted to a guest moving / laughs / coughs / ______ .

    Does that sound do-able?
    - terry

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  12. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    BTW, in the directions above, "FREE" bike-cable does not refer to either the price or value of the cable -
    it refers to the free-length in between the fixed ends, where the clamps are. :)

    U don't want to give the dog 2 or 3-ft, as a tether isn't for moving about, jumping on passersby, & so on - it's for lying down & gnawing on a pacifier, or watching the nearby / distant humans as they talk, watch telly, react to the sports game, & so on.

    - terry

    .
     
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