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Why does the dog suddenly hate me?

(9 Posts)
mindalina Sun 06-Jan-13 15:29:30

Alright that might be a little bit melodramatic. DP has a dog he rescued a few years ago. The poor thing had been dumped in a cage and miserably neglected and DP liberated him. He's a lovely dog, a German Shepherd with stumpy little legs courtesy of his cage sad and a generally placid and charming manner. He has always been very friendly and sweet to me. On Thursday, he growled at me, for no apparent reason. Since then, he cannot bear to be near me and growls whenever I wander past. He has been to the vet who says he has some pain in his back but nothing major, and has prescribed painkillers & anti-inflammatories, but the vet did not seem particularly concerned by the change in temperament. On further (very careful) investigation, we think he seems scared of me. He has got absolutely no reason to be frightened of me, but it really does look like he is very, very nervous of me. Nothing has changed particularly in the last few days to unnerve him or anything. The only thing we can think of is that I am now 33 weeks pregnant, so am very visibly pregnant and colostrum production has begun so presumably my smell has changed dramatically. We have speculated that there might have been a pregnant woman in his past who has either treated him badly or been somehow a trigger for bad treatment (i.e. being abandoned due to pregnancy or new baby) but we don't have any concrete info and I would have thought this would have arisen sooner if this were the case? It is only me who triggers this behaviour, not DP, not DS, not our friends and family.

We have got a dog behaviour person coming on Tuesday (who was originally going to address our other dog's whining, but she has packed that in since we made the appointment - sod's law!) so hopefully she will be able to shed some light on what the problem might be and how we proceed, but I wondered if anyone had any experience of a similar problem or suggestions on how we can resolve this horrid situation? The dog and I are both under huge stress now and it's very unpleasant for everyone. I have googled a lot but struggled to find anything that relates to our situation - most dogs seem to react very positively to pregnant women, not suddenly become terrified of them! Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have.

LetThereBeCupcakes Sun 06-Jan-13 17:11:47

We have a resuce dog who was badly treated by her previous "owners" (puppy farmers), and the things that trigger her are sometimes a complete mystery to us. You may well be on the right track with the pregnancy, but you'll probably never know for sure - I think you're doing the right thing speaking to a behaviourist.

In the meantime, I wouldn't push the dog. Don't force yourself at her, but whenever you go near her perhaps drop a tasty treat down for her. Don't offer it, just drop it, and maybe she can start to associate you with good things happening.

A friend of mine once had to do some serious work with her resuce after her husband walked into the room the dog was in at the same moment something fell over - such a minor thing, but the already nervous dog associated the husband's arrival with something scary (the bang). Could anything like that have happened?

mindalina Mon 07-Jan-13 00:28:53

Thanks for replying. It's just so strange for this big, tough-looking dog to seem to be so scared of little me!

We have wracked our brains trying to think of something that could have triggered this and really can't think of anything, it came on so abruptly as well. We did think of a few other little things that have been odd over the last couple of weeks - although unconnected to the growling at me - which all in all made us wonder if he was poorly, hence vets on Friday, but she didn't seem to have any concerns beyond the bit of pain in his back which we can't connect to any of the odd things anyway.

I completely agree about forcing my presence on the dog and try to be respectful of his space whilst trying to still go about my business. If he is actually scared of me then the last thing I would want is to make him feel cornered and stressed by getting too close. He has not snapped or even made any moves toward me (indeed he is keen to avoid getting close to me where possible) but the growling alone from such a big dog is frightening so I am very wary.

Interestingly today we picked up DS from his dad's and when we got home with him the dog was absolutely fine - he didn't growl once all afternoon/evening - but once I put DS to bed the dog reverted to growling at me! Honestly it's just the weirdest thing. Such a stressful situation and so difficult to have no idea how to address it. Tuesday and the dog behavioural person cannot come quick enough.

Rhinestone Mon 07-Jan-13 01:28:17

OK, I have a theory.

Does he growl when he has a clear view of you, i.e. you're not round a corner or anything? If so, did the vet check the dog's eyes as I think you should take him back and ask her to check him for cataracts / any other eye problems.

As you're pregnant you'll smell different and if he's having trouble seeing you then from his perspective, you're a stranger.

Get him checked out and in the meantime, make sure you talk to him when you go in the room so he knows it's you.

mindalina Mon 07-Jan-13 13:22:59

Thanks Rhinestone - we did consider this, especially in light of his reluctance to get very far from DP when out walking. The vet said there was no way to check his eyesight as such but did look in/around his eyes and said they look healthy. So he may well not be seeing very clearly, but at least we know there is no major health issue there.

Unfortunately yes he growls if I am standing in plain view or when I enter a room he's in, so it's not just an eyesight thing. Last night I was sitting on the sofa and started speaking to DP and the dog started growling just at the sound of my voice. I agree it is like I am a complete stranger to him, except he would never behave like this with a stranger, he's so friendly! He just seems to have a very strong aversion to me all of a sudden.

PeachActiviaMinge Mon 07-Jan-13 14:11:39

My little rescue dog has been very strange since I got pregnant including peeing in the house which he never did before. We haven't had any growling at me though if anything hes more protective I've made sure hes getting pleanty of attention from me and lots of love so he doesn't feel left out and slowly its stopped although he did pee up DH's boots 2 nights ago but in his defence DH didn't let him out for his last pee grin

I think you just need to get him associating you with good things again if you walk past him drop him a treat, don't force yourself on him sit on the floor (if you can!) with some treats and let him come to you don't rush him just give him the treats without saying anything, He has to know that you're still his friend and won't be hurting him. When you talk to him talk softly and kindly ignore the growling just positive reinforcement you have to be an amazing thing for him again.

Can you make sure you're the person putting his food down so he associates you with food as well? I do agree with you that its likely that he has a bad association with pregnant people though. I know for ours he was abandoned several times and at least one of those was due to a pregnancy. It might take time and a lot of effort on your part to sort out the relationship again but you are doing everything right and it will be good again.

Twattybollocks Mon 07-Jan-13 15:58:52

Well dogs can certainly remember people who abused them, my friend had a lovely staffy who was very friendly and affectionate, she rescued him from previous owner who was beating him. Owner was bald with a black moustache. We all thought he was over his past until one day a bald bloke with a moustache walked past while we were out walking and the dog literally went batshit on the end of the lead, leaping towards the bloke, snarling and snapping at him. Was ok after a few minutes and walked past several other people showing no interest at all.

mindalina Mon 07-Jan-13 18:59:49

Thanks Peach... - what a name! grin We've had no widdling, just this weird growling. But today I've come in from work and he seems much happier. The first thing I did was go to the kitchen and fetch some sweeties for them both, and he came right over to get his, then followed me out to the kitchen for another and we even managed a little stroke! Then he had a bit of a moment and growled a bit so DP politely requested he leave the kitchen, and after that he seemed fine again. So yes, hopefully the softly, softly and bring the sweeties approach is helping. It's like on a rational level he (and I realise I am attributing a human thought process to a dog which is a bit dubious) knows I am perfectly fine and safe and lovely but then sometimes the belly or maybe the smell just trigger this almost flashback-like instinctive reaction and he can't help himself, he just has to get away. I am a bit wary of feeding him as due to the neglect he is a bit funny with food, but I might give it a go if I'm feeling brave later!

Oh poor dog, Twatty. I can't understand the mentality of a person who beats a dog (well any smaller creature), I really can't. I'm glad your friend's dog was able to calm down relatively quickly though, that seems positive.

Twattybollocks Mon 07-Jan-13 20:15:57

Yeah, the dog certainly wasnt stupid, he clearly recognised the bald head and moustache and remembered! I don't know how people can beat dogs either, but then I don't understand how people can abuse kids, I think it must be a faulty wire somehow that they can't see that it's wrong!

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