Nipping! Any advice please?(20 Posts)
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I have a six month old mini schnauzer. She's adorable and is doing well in many areas, including her puppy classes.
But in the last week she's started nipping/snapping at people when they stroke her. She's not actually biting them, but Is making contact.
It's very shocking when it happens and is such a change from her usual behaviour, where she absolutely adores attention.
In the playground she snapped at some of the children, even though Usually she loves going there.
I took her to the vet yesterday to check there were no medical problems and he thought it was behavioural, maybe due to her becoming more of a teenager and more assertive.
I have contacted 2 behaviourists and am waiting to hear back.
In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this and what may be causing it?
Has anyone else's dog had a "phase" like this.
Btw it is not just puppy nipping/playing - this is a definite warning snap.
She has also started growling and barking at people that she sees approaching her on walks, even as she is wagging her tail and walking up to them for some attention. A woman the other day commented "hmm fierce dog", which she is definitely NOT!
Also the vet doesn't think she is coming into season, which was my other thought.
Last point, she is absolutely fine with me and my DH but has gone for both DC when they are with her. As I say there is no warning and they are not doing anything different to normal - usual play/stroking. DC are 9 and 11 and are good with dogs and understand boundaries.
Sorry for long post but I've tried to include everything I could think of that might be relevant.
Tips really would be appreciated as I obviously don't want this to become a fixed behaviour or even escalate.
Many many thanks.
Many dogs go through a fear phase at this age. It is important that you up her socialisation and ensure she has no bad experiences during this phase.
Many dogs don't like being handled and many dogs do not like hands looming over their heads. It is threatening to them.
Get people to approach her from the side and gently stroke her flanks while you are feeding her treats. I wouldn't encourage children doing this for safety's sake and it might be worth investing a basket muzzle while you are training.
For the growling and barking while approaching people I would use BAT. There is a book you can buy on Amazon that goes into this in detail, I would highly recommend it, but the basics are that you would look for a displacement behaviour before rewarding her by walking away from the fear source.
So, if she spotted a person in the distance, you would look for signs that she was starting to feel uncomfortable and then wait for her to offer what is known as a calming signal (lip lick, looking away from the person, sniffing the ground, lifting a front paw, yawning) and then click and treat her by walking away.
Thanks very much for your reply Dooin. I remember reading about the fear phase, but hadn't thought of it regarding Jess.
The puppy trainer says she's a very confident dog, but I guess she could still be frightened?
(She's also snapped at the puppy trainer as well as a few of the other owners on our Monday night class.)
I didn't get your message until after the school run, but today she actually jumped towards and snapped at a child just standing nearby.
I'd already told the children that she was a bit poorly and not to stroke her today and luckily they were all excellently behaved and gave her a lot of space. I gave them some of her kibble to throw down for her to try and make it a more pleasant experience for her. But she still jumped up and snapped even after all of that.
So I don't know if she's frightened - she just seems randomly very bad tempered and unpredictable.
For the walking, thanks for the tip about BAT, I'll have a look at their website tonight.
Fear is almost always the cause of aggression, although to be certain a behaviourist really would need to watch her, so I wouldn't give up in the behaviourists you called just get, for things like this it is really important to nip it in the bud asap and it should be done under professional guidance, however, I would start with BAT and counter conditioning (feeding treats while she is being fussed) while you are waiting for consult.
Dooin - thanks again. I'm so grateful for any tips or advice to keep me going until I can organise an appt with behaviourist. It's really worrying.
So I've been to see a behaviourist, and the advice so far is to only to ineract with Jess when I start the interaction, not when she comes to me for attention.
Other than that I'm still waiting for their report. I saw them last Monday so it's now a week.
I'm getting pretty desperate to be honest.
On Friday she snapped at and bit the groomer and this afternoon she snapped at 2 children we had visiting.
She also snapped at my daughter yesterday.
The behaviourst said to totally ignore the snapping and carry on as usual.
That is not having an impact as yet, though I do realise she will give us more to do once we have done this first stage for a while.
I feel desperately depressed, especially for these children. I was there when both events happened. It's just not ok and everyone was left feeling pretty shocked, while I'm standing there trying to follow the behaviourists instructions and not telling her off.
The first time the boy aged 9 was playing with her happily, until she decided she'd had enough and snapped at him.
The second time was when the 12 year old girl was stroking her and she'd had enough and snapped again, this time actually her teeth making contact with the girl's skin which is a first.
I think I am going to have to invest in a basket muzzle now, which seems cruel but there's nothing else I can do in the meantime, unless we just have no visitors to the house? Or just keep her shut away?
Anyway, I know there are no easy answers and I will persevere. At the moment I just feel so sad. I tried so hard to do everything right, but I've obviously gone horribly wrong somewhere down the line.
The behaviourist is from Bristol Uni and is also a member of the research team, so I trust she knows what she is doing. She's also a member of the APBC which I've heard you guys recommend a few times.
She says Jess is a highly reactive dog.
It's the opposite to what I would advise, tbh, but your behaviorist is more qualified than me. I would have advised not pushing her and only interacting on her terms eg. call her to you for attention rather than approaching her.
She sounds very stressed, I don't see how adding to her stress will help Did the behaviorist say why you should force attention on to her? I am a firm believer in giving dogs respect in order to earn it back from them and never push my dogs into situations they are unhappy with.
A poster on here is a qualified behaviorist, she posts under the name Cuebill, you try PMing her to see what she thinks?
A basket muzzle when you have guests/at the groomers is fine and not at all cruel, it's better to be safe than have her facing death for biting Here is a brief guide on how to introduce your dog to the muzzle
Thanks Dooin. I think what the behaviourist meant was calling her to me when I wanted to play/cuddle etc rather than responding to her asking for it.
She didn't clarify the forcing attention bit, but I will make sure I don't do that. To be honest, she seems to love getting attention from me and cries if she can't be near me.
Oh my. So confusing.
Just had long chat with the breeder who recommends a firm NO and maybe investing in one of those spray collars.
Such opposite approaches and I'm left feeling totally baffled.
I really really really appreciate you taking time to offer support! I really need it!
Hi bergedorf No advice I'm afraid but just a bit of support offerred as my dog is reactive and I know how draining and worrying it can be My dog is fear aggressive and although he is a lot better now than he used to be, I can never relax with him when he is around strange dogs/people.
Sometimes he will be fine,other times he will snap at dogs if they so much as look at him. People he is not so bad with so long as they don't force thereselves on him. A women came from behind on a forest path yesterday and without me realizing had put her hand down to stroke him. First thing I knew of it was when he had snarled and snapped at her and was attempting to run away scared
She apologised for going to mess with him without checking with me first but I still felt awful.
He snaps at the vet,we can't take him to groomers or any where like that as he would probably bite them
We love him to bits but really do feel at our wits end sometimes. His behaviourist says he is a very 'stressy' dog and is unlikely to ever be comfortable around strange people/dogs. She gave me lots of advice, but like you are finding, it conflicted with so much other advice I had been given.
I also feel like it is my own fault, and have days when I feel very sad and low from it.That maybe I didn't socialize him enough when he was younger,or maybe I didn't train him correctly?
I don't think there are easy answers when you have a reactive dog,and it is a hard slog but take some comfort that you aren't the only one with a dog who's very hard work
I've had to learn to read a situation before it gets to the stage of him becoming snappy,which can be very restrictive in terms of where I can walk him etc
Sorry for the long post Didn't mean to ramble on!!
Don't worry about the long post -- It's really helpful to read about other people's experiences and realise I'm not alone.
You're right -- you do start blaming yourself that you must have done something wrong. But the behaviourist did emphasise that some dogs are just like that and you have to work with it.
I've just had an email back from the lady actually, and she says we shouldn't actually have been having visitors anyway
I hadn't realised that and now feel even worse.
But also I'm wondering how long this is going to go on for? It seems crazy that our friends can't pop round for a cup of tea anymore...
Does anyone else have any experience or comment on this?
I'm no expert but sounds a bit odd that you can't have visitors My behaviourist advised to completely up his socialisation. He was mixing regularly with dogs/people anyway but she said she wanted him to meet 50 new dogs a week and roughly that amount of people if poss as well Was hard work but it improved his fear as he learnt that people brought treats I had to ask complete strangers off the street to offer him a treat,and to leave it on the floor for him to retrieve if he wouldn't take it from them. He is far from perfect,but is alot better.
Your behaviourist needs to identify why your dog is becoming aggressive. Have they given suggestions as to why they think she is reacting? I don't see how they can advise you to treat it if they haven't done that?
The idea is to calm the situation down completely and Then gradually work to reintroduce the things that are "triggers" for her. I was trying the treat thing on my own before, but apparently it was too early.
And no, they didn't give me any ideas on Why she's reacting, just that she is a "reactive" dog.
It takes a long time for a stressed dog to regain normal levels of certain hormones etc. so that sounds like good advice. Please follow the behaviourist not the breeder. Punishing and chastising is likely to make it worse.
SpicyPear talks sense. There have been studies on the stress hormone and iirc, it can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to leave the body.
It can effect learning. There's no point trying to retrain a highly stressed dog, she won't take it in.
Most behaviorists who train fear aggressive dogs recommend removing the dog from the stress source for as long as possible. Some even go as far as banning walks completely if it is feasible i.e. if there is another way to exercise the dog, such as a large garden with lots of enjoyable games and light training.
A spray collar will add to the stress, it may appear to work, but in reality you will have a very stressed out dog who has emotionally shut down. That's far more dangerous than having an outwardly reactive dog.
Thwinka, socialisation can help with less severe cases.
When my girl hit 6 months she became hand shy all of a sudden but only with certain people, mainly men. We got advice that was basically to desensitise her to hands coming at her by teaching her to bump her nose to a hand to get treats.
She also used to approach people wagging her tail and appearing to look for attention but would then cower when they reached her and airsnap at any hand coming towards her head. I think this is my fault as I encouraged everyone to approach her when she was tiny in an attempt to socialise her and I think I went too far. Basically I encouraged her to meet people when she simply didn't want too but she was so trained to approach people even when she found it distressing. She would sometimes tolerate their stroking but any hands near her head pushed her buttons too far. Now I warn strangers either to not touch her or to avoid petting her head even although she is absolutely delighted to see 99 out of 100 people.
What has helped me is learning her body language better and now I can tell the difference between the 'happy to see you, let me smother you with doggy love' tail wag and the 'I'm not sure about you but I'm coming close to check you out, please don't make any sudden moves' tail wag and step in to distract her when she needs help.
And she always has to sit now for a cuddle - if she won't sit, I know she doesn't want to be touched by that person. She's certainly more relaxed now that she knows I won't force the interaction. It doesn't help however that many people think they are a dog whisperer and try to ignore my attempts to walk away or tell them not to touch her head particularly if they have just watched her lavishing love on the person before them. If they get a fright from an airsnap, maybe they'll think better before ignoring an obviously concerned dog owner. People take it far too personally when a strange .dog doesn't like them
You've had some good advice so far. Just wanted to check if your dog is crate trained?
My rescue is now 7 months old but has been fear aggressive since we got her at 4 months.
Our behaviourist is very into positive reward training so no punishments etc. she suggested having her in her crate about 10 mins before visitors are due with a kong or treat.many barking or growling is met with a firm NO! From you.
If you can take guests into another room first then even better.
Then only when she is calm bring her in on a lead and get her to lay down next to you.
This has been working for us, my rescue seems better now there is jo pressure to 'deal' with people entering the house. She sees guests sitting down not towering over her and even when in the same room, they don't make eye contact or talk to her.
You could give it a try?
Your behaviourist is spot on so far, and very well qualified to handle this problem. However, I can see you have been left with some questions, which isn't usual, so note them down and email her with them. Clarity is really important.
The breeder's advice is nonsense, ignore it.
Have faith in the behaviourist and ask for clarification rather than muddling along, because otherwise you run the risk of undermining the
behaviour modification plan.
Thanks so much all of you. The behavoiurist emailed through the treatment plan for Jess last night - all 18 pages of it! - and I am now slowly reading it through. It's all very small, incremental steps, making sure she never reaches that "stress" stage. So it'll be a long process and I may well need shoring up along the way...
At the moment though she's asleep in her bed after a very long muddy walk, so all is calm..
Jess has just started her season today!
May explain her behaviour recently!
I am still going to follow the behaviourists training plan as I think she is generally quite a hyper dog, and anything that will help her feel more calm and less on edge is all good IMO.
BUT feeling pretty relieved too. Hopefully she'll return to her old self in a few weeks?
Is that what other people have found?
For now I guess I'm keeping her indoors though? Or is a long lead walk at quiet times ok?
Feeling quite emotional truth be told..