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Doggy anxiety about new people

(5 Posts)
Ormirian Mon 25-Jul-11 09:37:13

Can anyone help with this please?

The Harlster is a very friendly dog. But for some unexplained reason he gets anxious around people sometimes. So total strangers will ask if they can stroke him and he will back away making an odd whine and only let them stroke him if I am too. But other strangers are fine. At other times he backs away from people he knows and likes - my mum and dad - in our house. What can I do to reassure him?

He has never ever growled or snapped though!

And can someone also explain the mentality of the owner of one of those dogs that look like inflated brown labs on testosterone, who when seeing a nervous looking dog held on a short lead backing away behind it's owners legs, will let them approach the dog to 'play'? And not call him off when the other dog is clearly distressed and worried? Because i can only assume he is simply a TWAT! angry

Scuttlebutter Mon 25-Jul-11 12:31:57

Do you see any patterns in the type of strangers he is nervous around? Some dogs for instance are very nervous of men (one of ours is, especially tall men) yet will flirt quite happily with any women he meets. I've known other dogs have a nervous thing about items of clothing, or hats for instance. Partly this can be due to poor socialisation as a pup, and partly due to perhaps a very bad experience in their former life before you. For instance, our man nervous grey is terrified of anything like a belt, tie etc - it's obvious he was beaten (by a man) when he was racing.

The key is when having new people in the house, make sure they don't overwhelm him with greetings, and that Harley has a safe spot where he can retreat if he wants. Once all the visitors are settled, and have ignored him up till that point, he can come over and say hello. Also for a lot of visitors, it's actually much nicer NOT to be overwhelmed by a bouncing bundle of dogness - I have every sympathy with people who dont' like being used as a trampoline, or having paws everywhere. Now when we have visitors, I will put our nervous boy into one of the bedrooms, this allows everyone to get in, take coats off and get settled with a cup of tea - then we open bedroom door, so he can come down if he wants. He'll usually appear about half an hour later, will sidle in quietly, say hello with a sniff and then relax. Quite often at that point, having checked them out he will retreat back upstairs to his lair.

If you are out on a walk, strangers should always ask before stroking - I always make sure my body language is such that I am effectively blocking access to the dog if I am unsure about the person.

And no, can't explain the owners of the Lab missiles. But I feel your pain.

Ormirian Mon 25-Jul-11 12:46:38

It does seem to be women he avoid mostly. And DH is very obviously his favourite person in the family (much to the DC annoyance!). I guess it's just a matter of keeping him close to me and reassuring him. I would hate him to snap at anyone.

In the house I did what you suggested. As well as give mum and dad treats to feed him which is probably not ideal....

I am sure he was hit in his previous family - if he is in front of you and your raise a stick to throw it, he cowers sad So we have learned not to do that.

chickchickchicken Mon 25-Jul-11 22:51:55

harley sounds (and looks btw) very similar to my dog2. we rehomed him when he was about 1. he was very nervous of lots of things, especially men and feet. we helped him build his confidence slowly. sometimes this may mean being blunt with other dog owners/people. its important not to put harley in a position where he feels scared and has no escape. any dog who is scared and cant move away may react out of fear or just become a nervous wreck. this would be awful as he is such a friendly dog. if people are stroking him when you are out walking and he is not comfortable, just explain that he is still settling in with you and getting used to people. if they dont/wont listen to reason and politeness be blunt. if you have to say 'dont touch the dog' do, or if you have to walk away from them do so. you can always call out sorry or have to go as dog is nervous

good advice above about helping him not be overwhelmed by visitors

we have had dog2 for five years. he is still nervous sometimes (our vet called him the most paranoid dog he had ever met shock during his first few months with us) but he is an absolutely lovely dog. he is incredibly gentle and he adores ds

chickchickchicken Tue 26-Jul-11 17:48:26

oops meant neurotic not paranoid

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