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Puppy fearful of teenage son

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Gayle82, Apr 28, 2021.

  1. Gayle82

    Gayle82 New Member Registered

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    Hi all,

    Looking for some help please. We recently adopted a 5 month old mixed breed from Romania. He arrived on Saturday after a long 4/5 day trip. He was in a kill shelter for the beginning of his short life and then more recently a foster home. Socialised around other dogs, humans and cats.

    He acted as we suspected when he first arrived. Very timid, exhausted and generally nervous around us all. However, very quickly showed little bursts of his personality and in general has settled very well. He has never shown any fear or aggression towards me. Hubby had a little initially but this quickly disappeared. He is very loving and playful around both me and my husband. Our teenage son is a different story. Our son has been nothing but kind to him but something seems to trigger the poor pup.

    He growls as soon as he hears him moving around. This intensifies when he enters a room and progresses to barking. We are in the process of trying positive reinforcement - my son will give him treats when he enters a room and we are having him feed the pup as much as possible to try and build up trust. We have also at time given a form "no" to discourage the behaviour. This has made Jo difference, in fact I'd say the behaviour has gotten worse.

    There are so many differing opinions on best course of action. Just looking for some advice. We are obviously aware there would be some work involved with a rescue puppy, but we want to get it right and our son to have the companion he was so desperate for.

    Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read this. It's much appreciated.
     
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Hi.

    First, it will take a while for your dog's personality to come through. It's possible your son reminds him of someone, remember these dogs have few positive experiences of humans.


    There's a couple of things in this .

    I'd like you to imagine you are learning to drive.

    Every now and then, your instructor sternly says bangoh!.

    You would be puzzled. Even if you stopped or interrupted what you were doing, you wouldn't know what you were doing wrong - driving too fast, not using your mirrors, turning left instead of right, going the wrong way down a one way street, in the wrong gear, too close to the car in front etc etc.

    And "bangoh" is Japanese for no by the way, but essentially English is just as foreign a language to your dog as Japanese is to you.

    Can you see how it is exactly like that for your dog? Frustrating for him as well as for you.

    A firm no is at best an interruptor but importantly it doesn't tell your dog what he has done wrong, and what you want him to do instead.

    That said, I wouldn't be reprimanding him for this anyway. He is communicating that he is uncomfortable with your son (for whatever reason) and in the interest of building your bond with him, and gaining his trust, I think it's important to show him you are listening to him, respecting his discomfort, and dealing with the problem so he doesn't have to.

    I understand your thinking, but this can make some dogs quite conflicted. They want the treat but they have to approach scary person to do it.

    For the next two weeks or so, I'd suggest your son ignores him. Completely. Not even eye contact, because to a dog, direct eye contact is very intimidating. Also, he should position himself so he is never between your dog and his safe place (bed etc) or escape route (door from the room).

    Then he can try taking some lovely treats and tossing them past the dog, so he has to go away from him to get them. I realise that sounds counterintuitive but it helps the dog build a positive conditioned emotional response (google +CER for the science if you are interested) without having to get too close, which as I said could make him feel quite conflicted - he wants the treat but has to approach a scary person to get it.

    After a number of days of doing that, your son can put one of the treats on the floor, about 18 inches from his feet. See what your dog does. If he darts in, takes the treat, and goes off, then he isn't ready yet for this stage. So, as with anything in dog training, go back to the previous step for a bit longer.

    When he takes the treat from the floor and eats it there, your son can continue to do that for a few days. Still no eye contact.

    Once he has been taking the treat from the floor happily for a number of days, your son can offer one from his hand, but again see how the dog reacts. Any lack if confidence (taking it and stepping back) again is a sign he isn't ready, so back up a step for longer. And still no eye contact.

    Once he is comfortable taking treats from your son's hand (and I mean really comfortable) he can try petting him, but using the five second rule.

    Stroke him for five seconds (some dogs prefer you avoid the head) then stop. Only if the dog initiates further contact by nudging your son or similar, he can continue for another five seconds then stop again. He should continue only for as long as the dog keeps asking. That gives the dog control and in turn that will build his confidence around your son because he knows he can make it stop at any time.

    Expect this to take weeks, or even months depending on the dog. But don't be tempted to rush it, take it at his pace.
     
    Lennor Magill, Flobo, RGC and 2 others like this.
  3. Hemlock

    Hemlock Well-Known Member Registered

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    Brilliant advice!

    I'd like to emphasise that your dog has had many negative experiences before he came to you, and it's so good that he still trusts you enough to communicate how nervous he is by growling. See the growl as a gift. Less is more with a troubled dog. Give him plenty of space and let him initiate interaction. Remember that emotional progress is not linear - he will have confident days and less confident days.
     
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  4. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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  5. JudyN

    JudyN Moderator Moderator Registered

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    I just want to add that as he is showing aggression, if you think this might escalate and cause injury, do consult a behaviourist who can see what's happening. Choose carefully - if they mention anything to do with increasing your son's rank in the pack, or punishment/corrections, or want you to push the dog so they can see the aggression, walk away. And learn dog body language so you can spot very early signs that your dog is stressed, e.g. licking lips, and acting accordingly, so he doesn't have to communicate how he feels more emphatically.
     
    Biker John, Flobo, RGC and 2 others like this.
  6. RGC

    RGC Active Member Registered

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    Gayle82, hats off to you for taking on an adoptee. We took on a rescued whippet 18 months ago that hadn’t been anywhere near the ordeal that your pup must have faced. She came with some emotional baggage - fearful of people (especially men). For the first two months of her residence with us I had my head in my hands in total despair wondering what in God’s name what I had done but, for what it’s worth, we now have a very happy dog. It took a lot of patience together with being mindful of her concerns - no raised voices (we’re quiet anyway) and letting her dictate her own pace. In spite of the fact that I was the one that fed her and took her for walks she considered me as the spawn of Satan for what seemed ages. Travel in the car was out of the question as she’d get anxious and throw up. We had to walk everywhere! Within a few months she realised that the car meant exciting walks and fun. We’d had two adopted whippets before her and they’d been 100% fine from the word go - this one was a complete surprise. I got quite an amount of good advice and reassurance from this site. Hang on in there, it does get better - just gentle patience on the pup’s terms. EB95BDD0-7F5B-4D39-BBAD-ACC654D2EA7E.jpeg EB95BDD0-7F5B-4D39-BBAD-ACC654D2EA7E.jpeg
     

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