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Would you say something?

(3 Posts)
Thistledew Thu 07-Dec-17 10:04:46

I will preface my question by saying I'm not a dog owner and never have been, but I did own and train horses for many years so know a bit about animal behaviour.

Friends have a cockerpoo- about 18 months old now. They have owned dogs in the past, but before I knew them so don't know anything about those dogs. The little dog is apparently "going through a phase" of being snappy, particularly around strangers. They are keeping him away from people who he is not familiar with as much as possible and hoping that he will soon grow out of it and calm down.

The thing is, I (in my zero experience of dogs) think it is obvious why he is snappy. He is an excitable and bouncy little thing. Whenever he jumps up at someone my friends discipline him by yanking at his lead. It seems as plain as day to me that he is now associating his feelings of excitement at seeing someone new with feeling pain and is this is translating to anxiety and aggression.

I want to point this out to my friends and suggest that something like clicker training to reward him for keeping all paws on the ground would actually be better in terms of teaching him positive behaviour and removing the negative associations.

However, it seems that telling someone how to train their dog when you don't have one yourself is as big an insult as someone without children telling someone how to parent. Would you say anything in this situation or mind your own business? What would be the best way to broach the subject?

missbattenburg Thu 07-Dec-17 10:13:07

You are bang on the money about dogs, regardless of not having owned one. Honestly, I'd have to say something.

Perhaps start with "You know, you talking about the tricky patch your dog is going through got me thinking the other day about how I used train horses and it occurred to me that they learn pretty much the same way dogs do. I don't know if it's useful but something I learned with horses is that using punishment just increases the chances of fear and/or aggression and I was thinking that might be the same with dogs. What got me thinking was an article I read on the US guide dog association that saw much more success training US guide dogs once they stopped using punishment and started using reward instead. Would showing you how we used to clicker train horses be of help?"

Even if they don't listen, at least you will know you tried. Otherwise, this behaviour could just get worse until the dog is ruined and/or they give up on him. If that happens, you might want to know you did your best for your friends and your dog.

Summerisdone Thu 07-Dec-17 10:29:26

I don’t know if you could be right or not about your friend’s dog, but my cockapoo became the same at a similar age.
He too started to be snappy and growly at strangers, and gets himself a little worked up if they try to pet him (which happens a lot because people often presume cockapoos are cuddly and teddy bear like).
This is definitely not because I tried to restrain him from jumping up at people and yanking him down because it first began when friends he hadn’t met would come round to my house, so he didn’t even have a lead on.
Unfortunately a year on and he’s still like that, so it’s definitely not a phase but I’ve figured that it’s his possessive side, as he’s apparently not nearly as bad when I’m not with him; he was fine after I dropped him off with a new groomer and when he went to stay with my stepdad for a week whilst I was away, he too said there weren’t really any problems with him snapping or growling at strangers.

I’m not too sure what I can do to change this, I’ve tried to socialise him more by taking him on group dog walks with new people, and tried to find advice online but it’s now gotten to the point that I’m finding it best to take him for walks where we’ll be more isolated and I don’t invite many friends around unless my dog is already comfortable with them. I’m hoping that in the new year when he gets neutered we will eventually begin to see a difference and he’ll become less possessive of me.

I must point out that my dog has never tried to attack anyone, and he is always on a lead when we leave the house so as not to take any chances, but his growling and snapping is more than enough to scare people, and it’s so unfortunate because to me and people he knows he is such a loving dog.

So I do think your friends are being rather naive in thinking it’s just a phase their dog will grow out of, although I’m not too sure what they can do, they can’t just expect that their dog’s snappy traits will just vanish.

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