Friend reporting concerns with my dog, wants me to see her 'expert'

(47 Posts)
Armadale Mon 26-May-14 11:59:20

My dog is about 5yrs old, we have had him a year and a half.

I am pregnant.

The lady who we got the dog from came round yesterday to tell us she thought we needed to see her friend who is a behaviourist as our dog is not going to be safe around a baby.

She said that our dog's problems are due to us not being firm with him and so he thinks he is the dominant member of the household, which has caused all sorts of problems in his behaviour. We are being arrogant in not seeing that our behaviour needs to change and putting a baby at unnecessary risk.

To say we were horrified is an understatement.

There is a huge back story & I don't want to drip feed, so sorry this might be long: this lady rescues stray street dogs from Eastern Europe and places them in local homes. We agreed to have a dog for her -he had been a homeless stray but we were told he was great with people and other dogs except could be uneasy around small terrier types.

In reality he is frightened of anyone he doesn't know, and is aggressive with ALL other dogs unless he is introduced to them very gradually. (We have got to know a few other owners of these dogs and they all have similar problems- but the lady is slightly in denial about this.)

The way we handle to dog currently is that he is walked, always on lead, around the streets rather than the local fields, as this avoids the risk of off lead dogs bounding up to him, which will result in him at first growling but would progress to snapping and then biting if we didn't extricate him.

I ask strangers not to touch him which avoids any problem with people, as it is only being touched that seems to scare him.

Of course it would be nice if we had the kind of dog we could play in the park with and sit at our feet in beer pub gardens, but he isn't. We have taken him to two different dog training classes, but the amount of dogs and people was clearly beyond him, he made no progress but got more wound up each time, so we have just accepted him as he is and just make sure he isn't a risk.

Twice he has snapped at people in our house- both family members who had come to visit. Both had a sort of 'all dogs love me attitude' so repeatedly tried to stroke him when he had moved away from them several times, until backed by them into a corner or doorway, when he air snapped at them.

To be honest, I took this as a good sign, the dog was obviously distressed, had tried to get away and still didn't actually bite but just warn them. He has never otherwise been aggressive to a human.

If my niece (3 yrs old) visits he is supervised closely and she is not allowed to touch the dog, and after a few minutes the dog generally takes himself off to the bedroom for a nap after a bit as she is a bit loud when running about playing.

Obviously the dog would not be allowed any unsupervised contact with our baby, as basic common sense, but other than this we didn't feel he was a particular risk over and above the obvious fact that dogs are animals not people, can not be expected to react as people and should never be put to the test.

But her visit has worried us and made us question ourselves and whether we are being naive.

DH thinks the lady has just panicked when she found out I was pregnant as she knows on some level that these dogs are not really right, and she is also in thrall to this new friend, (the behaviourist), who specialises in 'training owners to be true pack leaders' as this sort of idea does reinforce her thinking that all her dogs are lovely and their difficulties are the fault of the owners.

My temptation is to either to agree with DH and ignore her, or maybe get someone in to help other than her friend who sounds as bonkers as her

Apparently some of the things we are doing wrong include letting the dog sit on the sofa, feeding it at 7pm in the evening whether my husband is home from work or not, and stroking it in the house, as in dog packs it is only the dominant dog who is groomed in the den(!)

Frankly this just sounds like rubbish to me I'm not sure someone who believes this stuff is necessarily the way to go if we do need someone.

Any advice gratefully received. If anyone had a personal experience of a proper behaviourist that would be particularly useful, we are in South London.

SpicyPear Mon 26-May-14 13:33:27

Hi OP. Do not use her friend. You are right, she is spouting utter nonsense. Those pack leader theories have been thoroughly debunked. Your dog is terrified, not dominant, as you know.

However, from what you have described I would have concerns about how they will cope with a baby and you need to be preparing them now for it. Things like cds of crying etc. I would recommend that you get a behaviourist involved who is a member of the APBC. They have a list on their website. If you are prepared to be a bit more specific about where in Sth London (pm if you want) I can ask about. That's my patch.

tabulahrasa Mon 26-May-14 13:40:38

Honestly I'd be a bit worried about a baby given that he's fearful and avoids your neice...a child full time without preparation might be too stressful for him.

So I'd say get a behaviourist, they'll be able to help you to work with your dog on his fears...but not one who advocates dominance theory.

Go with a qualified one as SpicyPear says.

Armadale Mon 26-May-14 14:05:58

Thanks so much for the replies.

I hadn't thought that the dog was avoiding niece through fear, just thought he didn't like it noisy, so that is really useful to realise that now.

I am relieved the expert does seem a bit off to you both, it did seem odd to me.

But also starting to think they might have done us a favour in getting us to think about it more now, perhaps we were being complacent and do need some pre-baby advice.

SpicyPear, thanks I will PM you now with my address, it is much appreciated.

RoseyHope Mon 26-May-14 14:19:53

Agree with the others, definitely get a behaviourist on board now. He sounds like a very frightened dog with low confidence. A large amount of dog 'aggression' comes through fear and not any real malice.

It'd be good to get it in check now before baby comes and you won't have the time to adjust him. Soon enough baby will be walking and talking and he needs to be comfortable with her before then.

A behaviourist will help assess his problems and work on strategies to reduce his fear and build up his confidence with both people and dogs. Best of luck, and congrats on the baby xx

tabulahrasa Mon 26-May-14 14:19:59

He may well like small people fine and just be avoiding the noise...but you're better getting help working that out now rather than realising later on that children make him nervous.

Though not from someone who thinks that dogs care who's when they eat though, lol.

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 14:20:00

There are some great resources on dogs and babies here.

Armadale Mon 26-May-14 14:30:00

Thanks, am a bit of a luddite and not on Facebook so it won't let me open the link.

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 15:31:46

Will screen shot the list for you when I get home smile

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 15:48:46

Hope this works!

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 16:00:43

I have a Rottweiler so obviously people spouted a lot of crap to me about how he would never be good around kids.

He is excellent.

She is right that he shouldn't be on the sofa. I put a stop to that as soon as I was pregnant. This is because a dog needs to have boundaries and the alpha dog (mewink) should always be above the others. It's a respect thing. Also, you need to know your kid can safely be on there with you.

I'd be very nervous about him going to another room once you have a baby. He cannot permanently live in the other room. This could potentially lead to jealousy or simply a miserable dog.

There should be no reason you can't train him to do exactly what you want. Regardless of where you got him. Dogs want to be trained.

SpicyPear Mon 26-May-14 16:12:31

With respect Raskova this is not a training issue. It's behavioural and needs a behavioural program to change how he feels about people and noise. Training him to get off the sofa will do precisely nothing to improve how this dog responds to a new baby.

If you don't want your dog on the sofa by all means don't allow it. But don't think it has anything to do with alphas, packs or respect. I don't know how many times we can through that being very old and inaccurate training theory. Dogs like sofas because they are comfy and smell of their owner. Not because they think they are the boss of the household.

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 16:25:01

No it won't make a difference to how it acts around new baby but it is a safety issue. It also sets a boundary and is another time when my dog must listen to me. If I give my dog an inch, he takes a mile. So I set firm boundary. I know my dog wants the sofa because it's comfy but if he always gets what he wants he turns into a pita. He is allowed on the sofa, if he 'asks' and I accept. This wasn't the case when dd was teeny and lay on the sofa.

Behaviour and training to me are the same thing. If I don't like a way my dog behaves he is trained out of it. Sorry, didn't realise a difference.

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 16:26:55

I'm not sure I explained it well. It is about respect and therefore alpha. I'm alpha and my dog listens to me. He is allowed where I say. He respects me and what I say is acceptable. If he is allowed everywhere, he starts to listen less or ignore my rules. This isn't just the sofa. It's anything and everything.

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 16:34:52

We can't be alpha over dogs, we are not dogs and dogs are not wolves.

Dominance/Alpha/Pack Belief

SpicyPear Mon 26-May-14 16:42:54

There is a big difference. Training refers to behaviour that is teachable. Sitting, not getting on furniture etc. That kind of thing is not particularly linked in with an emotional state.

OP's dog however does not have a training problem. It is showing behaviour that stems from unknown fear of people, other dogs and noisy unpredictable small children. Establishing yourself as boss won't help in the case of a dog that is behaving in a certain way due to fear. You need to change the underlying emotional state of the dog. That is what behaviourists do and it is very different to general obedience training. Dongs cannot learn successfully when they are stressed or in a fearful state.

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 16:49:25

Sorry Spicy chucking at that typo!

You can't change a dog's emotional state with training.

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 16:50:14

I'd accept that video if he didn't just spend 5 mins saying it's not fact/it's not a theory. Where's his evidence? Where's the background? I'll look at the links he suggested because the video only told me that it's not a theory and the earth isn't flat...

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 16:51:39

I see spicy pair, well explained and thank you.

I have always thought of it as training them out of that behaviour.

SpicyPear Mon 26-May-14 16:54:35

Yes the terminology is a bit confusing and doesn't help!

And yes, I mean dogs. I am not claiming any expertise re the emotional state or behaviour of dongs blush

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 17:04:09

I'm all confused now. My pooch turned out perfect so I obviously did something right but that's what I've always been told. I had a behaviourist once and lots of training sessions with various dog trainers. Everyone said the same...

Perhaps I mistake his obedience for my dominance.

He's never tried to dominate me. He always tried to hump my older male dog. We were told that was dominance as oppose to him just liking boys wink he does only go for boys though.

The only issues he ever had were food aggression when a pup but we got that out of him quickly and chewing everything. 5 sofas, mobile phones, stairs, kitchens. That took years hmm

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 17:05:37

He explains why in the video, it isn't classed as a theory because it has been disproven.

Not sure where to begin DS/CC with a dong Spicy, not sure liver cake would be classed as high value for one of them!

Lilcamper Mon 26-May-14 17:07:22

Dogs don't try and dominate humans either, and we don't need to dominate them.

Humping is more likely over stimulation or displacement, not dominance.

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 17:11:05

Yes but that's not explaining why. Explaining why would be showing how it was disproven. What the new theory is.

Raskova Mon 26-May-14 17:11:59

And no, he's never tried to dominate me. Though he can be very cheeky... grin

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