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Normally friendly dog has started barking at people.

(20 Posts)
Joolly2 Thu 03-Sep-15 14:52:06

Walking my 12month old puppy is usually a joy but recently he has started to bark at certain people and children. It is very difficult to predict who he will will bark at. Normally he loves meeting people and especially children, but at the moment I am on tenterhooks when people approach as I don't know how he will react. His bark is very loud but his tail is wagging which is confusing. Does anyone know why this has started but more importantly how do I stop it?

laundryeverywhere Thu 03-Sep-15 15:14:28

Being on tenterhooks when people approach is a problem as he will notice you are worried and start to see the people as a potential threat.

You should go out as much as possible to places with lots of people, but where you will not be at all nervous of talking to anyone who looks friendly. As soon as you see someone act really friendly and pleased to see them, say something like "oh look there's a nice man/woman/child" , praise the dog if he is not barking and give him treats, if possible walk up to them happily and chat, treating the dog if he behaves, or even get them to give him a treat if they are a suitable person.

clearingaspaceforthecat Thu 03-Sep-15 16:12:51

Sounds like he could be going through a fear stage - tail wagging isn't always a happy sign but can be a sign of excitement/high arousal. Trying to keep calm yourself and maybe taking him on quieter walks whilst he goes through this stage.

Joolly2 Fri 04-Sep-15 11:51:16

Thank you laundry and Clearing. I will persevere and hope this stage doesn't last too long. One child is already crossing the road when he sees us coming.

moosemama Fri 04-Sep-15 14:33:36

I'd second clearing, sounds like a fear stage. In which case, I wouldn't massively up socialisation, instead keep him calm and quiet and perhaps just stick to positive interactions to people you know he likes already. Avoid any situations he's likely to find overwhelming and instead work on building his confidence in situations he's already fairly comfortable with.

Check you're not tensing up and tightening the lead when you predict a problem may arise, as that could be actually triggering his reaction. If you can, try to keep a loose lead and light, happy voice.

I used to tense when I thought my dog was going to bark. I learned to keep things light, call him a numpty and keep walking, as this not only helps him calm down and realise there's nothing to get stressed about, but it helps to reassure the other person when you don't look worried or stressed about it yourself.

If you also do lots of fun, highly rewarding training that will help build his confidence, which will also help.

This article and this one may be helpful

Joolly2 Fri 04-Sep-15 16:34:08

Moosemama, thank you for the advice and especially the links. They are really interesting. It is such a relief to know it's a normal part of dog development. I feel a bit more confident now. I seem to be learning something new every day.

moosemama Fri 04-Sep-15 17:55:44

If it helps, I've had dogs since the late 80's and I'm still learning every day. My latest boy is a totally different kettle of fish to all my previous dogs and I've had to learn to handle him in a completely different way to most of them. Fascinating but a bit of a hair-raising ride at times! grin

Having not had a pup for a long time, I'dd completely forgotten about the late fear period. Totally panicked when my younger lad went through it and it was lovely Doghouse mnetters that put my mind at rest.

HenDogismylife Fri 04-Sep-15 19:16:11

Try to stay relaxed and don't let people make you feel judged because the dog will pick up on all of your signals.
I have a 20 month old lab, and when he reached 11months he became very reactive, we ignored it and unfortunately it got worse, when he was castrated at 12 months this made the whole situation 100% worse. Now almost a year on, we are slowly getting there but it has taken a lot of work, a lot of patience and a lot of tears (mine). I put off asking for help and now really wish I hadn't. We got a therapist and she was able to quickly reassure me that he wasn't aggressive just scared and reactive because of this. This week we have tried walking with a muzzle on ( after months of training to get him used to wearing a muzzle) in the hope that I can get him close to other dogs again.

moosemama Fri 04-Sep-15 19:49:37

HenDog do you think some controlled socialisation with stooge/teaching dogs might help? I have heard great things about these people although haven't been there myself as it's too far for us to travel. I know quite a few people who have taken their dogs to them though and had very good outcomes. I've also spoken to them on another forum and they seem lovely.

Totally understand the tears - been there myself through two reactive rescues. Your user name is very apt - having a reactive dog can really take over your life.

My current lad has gone from being reactive to off-lead dogs as an older pup, to now bouncing and barking when he sees dogs running off-lead, because he wants to go and play with them. Daft mutt! Fortunately, most dog people can tell the difference and he will respond to cues to stop, but some people are still worried by him, because he's far from small and has a big mouth a loud bark.

We did a lot of BAT training - basically keeping him under threshold a long way from other dogs and giving him the reward of retreat if he was able to look away or offer a calming signal. Also lots of counter-conditioning, treat-bombing whenever another dog came into view, to change his associations from anxiety to cheerful anticipation when he saw other dogs. He's two years, three months old now and has just amazed us by being really good on our beach holiday. Last year was a nightmare with other dogs on the beach, this year he loved it.

Now if we could just crack his separation anxiety we'd be laughing. hmm

You sound like such a lovely, committed owner. You'll get there and the rewards for both you and your lovely boy will be huge. flowers

HenDogismylife Sat 05-Sep-15 07:54:57

Thanks for that link moosemama I wish I lived closer because they sound amazing. Luckily I have a friend who trains dogs and she has offered to bring her dog along for some one on one socialisation.
I think a lot of his fear comes from when he was actually just a daft dog trying to play, he would be barking and acting like a sheep dog chasing up and herding dogs or people. Most people knew it was play and let him get on with it but the few that didn't had quite strong reactions - one man kicked him, and another woman hit him on the head.
We have been doing BAT training and it has been really useful, I was worried at first because he is so strong that I wasn't sure I would be able to control him when he saw his trigger. Obviously I forgot he is a Labrador so food comes before anything else.
I let him off lead yesterday with his muzzle on, so that we could so some recall training ( he always had a strong recall but would forget himself if he got too excited) and it was like seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel. He came back and sat next to me when I spotted off lead dogs and when he saw them he was completely calm. I was so proud.
I think until you have a reactive dog it's easy to judge others or to say 'maybe you should get him rehomed, it's obviously not working out' but I know how strong our bond is because we have been through so much together.

moosemama Sat 05-Sep-15 11:28:41

Hendog glad you have someone to help and support you through it, it makes all the difference when you don't feel so alone.

It's so lovely when you have a day when you can see that chink of light at the end of the tunnel. The first day of our holiday, when mine ignored the other dogs on the beach, was like that for me.

BAT training is amazing. I was genuinely gobsmacked at how quickly mine reduced his thresholds once we were doing it effectively.

Mine started being reactive after being leaped on, rolled and thrown around on his first two walks where he was allowed to go down after vaccinations. Both dogs appeared from nowhere without an owner in sight and were three times his size. He'd had to be kept away from other dogs too, due to being very poorly and infectious when we rescued him at 10 weeks, so it was even more important for his first interactions to be positive. He never forgot what happened and despite being fine at training classes, quickly started to bark at any off-lead dog after that. Fortunately, being so young, helped us to help him make new, positive, associations and while he still panics if he sees the same type of dog (both were the same breed) he doesn't 'react' anymore. The only time he barks now is if he wants to run and play too, which is a touch embarrassing, but I can live with that while we work on his manners. Tricky, as we want him to be positive about their proximity, but in a calmer way. Off-lead dogs that aren't charging about are greeted nicely, it's only the manic ball-chasing ones that he wants to play hooley with, so get yodelled at. hmm

JustALocal Mon 07-Sep-15 10:39:48

We have a soppy 17m beddlington lurcher boy who handles being rolled on and generally manhandled by small children, has never shown aggression, and over the last few weeks has started barking at anyone in a hi-vis top, plus other random strangers. I can't see any logic to who troubles him! This morning, he started growling with no one in sight, and then really barked at a man and his small son for no apparent reason, and it upset me a lot.

I find it hard to make it all positive, treat etc, when it's so very hard to predict who it'll be. It is fantastically reassuring to know that this is most likely just a developmental stage!

What's BAT training?

Thanks all...and good luck with your various dogs ;-)

moosemama Mon 07-Sep-15 11:22:32

BAT Training

Books and dvds about it.

JustALocal Mon 07-Sep-15 11:42:10

Fab, thanks!

moosemama Mon 07-Sep-15 12:01:57

You're very welcome. It's fascinating stuff.

Wish I hadn't gone on the website though, as I discovered Grisha is running a seminar in Cambridge in OCtober and I can't attend on that weekend. hmm grin

JustALocal Mon 07-Sep-15 14:15:44

Ah, shame :-( sorry if I made you go there!
Such a relief to find that our soft and gentle pup is't going to turn into a psycho!

moosemama Mon 07-Sep-15 14:41:12

grin don't worry about it.

I love Beddie Lurchers by the way. I have two Lurchers myself.

JustALocal Mon 07-Sep-15 16:35:10

Ahh, good to hear it - lurchers are just wonderful :-)

punter Mon 07-Sep-15 17:24:21

So glad to see this thread. 3 year old lab has suddenly become reactive to children, particularly the shrieky kind, and has barked at them in a very stressed way. But today was worse as he came upon 3 really loud children (about 8 years old) screaming as they were playing in the woods. As they ran towards him, he was barking, I told them to ignore and keep walking, which they did. Looked around and punter lab has gone. Retraced my steps calling for him for about 1 mile, eventually saw him in the distance, ears back tail down. Luckily had cheese in pocket and that persuaded him to come. Pulled like mad back to the car, obviously a bag of nerves. What advice if any? Barked whilst in the car at any child that happened to be on the pavement! No history of any problem with children, plays quite happily with my grandkids ages from 2 to 10. Should I be worried or hope it is only temporary?

moosemama Mon 07-Sep-15 18:02:28

Punter some people do think there may be an extra fear period in early adulthood, but it's not something I have any experience of personally.

I'm wondering if it's more likely to be a paired fear response, eg dog treads on something sharp and feels pain just at the moment it can see a child and pairs the child with the pain.

This happened with my wheaten terrier, but it was me she associated with the pain. She started ducking/cowering and running away from me, it was awful, she'd look for all the world as if I must beat her regularly, then run home from the park. blush Turned out she had developed a hotspot under the thick fur on her cheek, I didn't realise it was there, her lead must have brushed against it and hurt her, I was on the other end and she associated me with the pain. We did lots of counter-conditioning and positive association and she got over it.

With such a sudden change in behaviour in an adult dog, without being able to identify a cause, my first port of call would be to the vets for a full check up. Then if nothing turns up I'd probably ask for a referral to a qualified behaviourist, especially with the problem involving children.

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