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Lack of early socialisation - how much of a problem?(30 Posts)
Novice owner here of two rehomed dogs, a chi and a pug cross. Previous owners didn't walk them and I suspect they had little early socialisation. This manifests itself in the chi, particularly reacting to other dogs... Up on hind legs, snarling. She is also growly with strangers to the house, though soon comes round. Rescue aren't forthcoming with help or advice. I guess I'm just wondering how much of a problem this is going to be and whether the growliness/reaction to other dogs is likely to escalate or can be managed? I have two DDs (one of whom is 3) so just want to be clear I guess on what I'm dealing with and whether I need to be concerned?
In my limited experience, reactive dogs can't be fixed. But you might be able to effectively manage the behaviour. You can try counter-conditioning training, teaching dog to 'watch' you with a clicker, and Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT). There is a good book on BAT that explains things like trigger stacking quite well, and another called 'fiesty fido' with good tips. With a smaller dog, managing the behaviour might be ok. I did struggle with my powerful lurcher mix. Equipment like your harness and lead are worth thinking about, if the dog is idiotic on the end of the lead like mine was you could try a double clipped lead. You ought to seriously consider walking them separately as they will defo wind each other up. And look for a specialist dog trainer to help. Hope this helps, best of luck.
Thank you! The rescue handed over the they liked to walk together with their bodies touching but that's not really the case. They both just do their own thing! I can walk separately for now but would like to be able to take them together longterm. The chi is quite territorial aswell, barking at people passing by the window and through the garden fence etc.
I met DDog at approx 1y2m old. Info is sparse, but I gather the home where he was 8w - 12m only took him on 10 min walks around the block, though there were other dogs in the house. So, not too dissimilar a situation to your dogs'.
I initially thought DDog was lead reactive. Turns out he was a frustrated greeter. The difference is the emotion behind it - if its about fear (reactivity) or a dog that is frustrated that it can't go and say hello to the other dog (frustrated greeter) and ends up lunging, snarling etc. It can be hard to discern which emotion is behind it if you're not a professional, though it's common for a frustrated greeter to be fine when off lead with other dogs but a reactive dog to have a meltdown in the same situation. DDog's frustrated greeting has largely disappeared now, almost certainly due to having sufficient exercise and off lead doggy social contact, but if your dog is genuinely reactive then seeing lots of other dogs will only make things worse.
Just to make matters more complicated, DDog is reactive towards a more esoteric trigger - motorbikes. As pp alluded, this is something that is more managed than cured - but we have made great strides with the help of an APBC accredited behaviourist (and lots of liver pate rewards) and can now usually see a motorbike without a meltdown.
I wouldn't be overly concerned about your daughters unless there's something you haven't mentioned; dogs that are reactive towards other dogs don't normally have the same feelings about children, though of course you should never leave a young child and dog unsupervised, and I would be very strict about DC behaviour around DDog. The one thing I would be aware of is that sometimes reactive dogs can do what's known as redirecting. In essence, they end up in such a frenzy that they turn around and bite the nearest thing without really even realising they're doing it. DDog has, on a handful of occasions, bitten everything from my shopping bag to my lower legs when he saw a motorbike (puncture wounds not requiring medical attention only). He meant no harm to me, it was simply that my bag / legs were the nearest thing. If you walk with your DC, and you think that redirection is a risk, you may like to consider muzzling your dog for peace of mind.
I would really recommend seeking out an APBC or CCAB accredited behaviourist sooner rather than later as the earlier such behaviours are caught the easier it is to improve the behaviour. I say APBC or CCAB accredited as there is no regulation of the industry whatsoever (ie literally anyone can call themselves a behaviourist) but those two qualifications are recognised as being gold standard and will help you to avoid the awful ones.
Thank you avocados. Reading back, I didn't say (though I meant to) that the chi did growl and snap earlier whilst she was on my lap and DD close by. As soon as she growled, I went to move DD away but it all happened very quickly. Chi had approached me for a fuss and I think the snap was directed at other dog rather than a human but really made me jump in any case.
I think it was really irresponsible of the rescue to re-home a dog reactive dog to a home with a 3yr old. Its too easy for a 3yr old to get hurt by mistake when the dog goes into a frenzy about another dog.
Either find a proper behaviourist or contact dogs trust. Dogs Trust now have Dog School and will help and advise regardless of where the dog came from.
Thanks smurf. The woman who runs rescue is a behaviourist. She basically told me to redirect her with sausages and find a local trainer . Redirection is fine, but places locally I'd set aside for walking are full of dogs which makes it all very stressful.
Think carefully about this one......the chances are that you need to be in it for the long haul. I hate making decisions by breed but this is quite common behaviour in Chi and can be very very difficult , expensive and time consuming to change.
The "behavourist" at the rescue can not just walk away from issues like this. If they do not give you a behaviour plan I would seriously question if this is the dog for your family.
I am concerned about the behaviour and the fact that you have a child.
I am and my children live with dog reactive dogs but your issues are bigger than just dog reactivity. - be careful
How old is the dog and how long have you had it?
I am a behaviourist! and my children ......
Thank you Vall. Dog is 4 years old. Very early days, only been with us a couple of weeks but I've seen territorial behaviour develop over that time. Last night the chi was making noise overnight at anything passing the window (not all night thankfully but for a period when I first went up to bed).
.... (they've been pretty quiet over night up until now even though barking at things passing by during day). At rescue they were exercised in field so didn't have contact with other dogs. I suspect they haven't seen what she's like on a walk in urban area.
whilst she was on my lap
As an aside I would say don’t let the dogs become lapdogs as it sounds like they have it in them to become possessive.
My mum’s dog is like a whole other being since it started work with a behaviourist. It took a lot of hard work but is now a really lovely dog.
Is the territorial stuff, within normal limits or behaviour I need to be concerned about? I put them in crate earlier when visitor due to arrive. Fine in crate but growling and barking at visitor when they arrived. Is the behaviour likely to escalate if not addressed?
Thanks biscuits...comment noted.
To be honest, I wouldn't bank on being able to fix the chi. I'd say you'd never be able to trust it and need to manage the situation as well as you can. The advantage of small dogs is that most people don't bat an eyelid when they go berserk, unlike big dogs (I have two big one small), and they are much easier to keep under control if they do react.
My small dog is reactive on lead but only when I walk her. She tries to protect me, she doesn't give a stuff about DH and he can walk her perfectly fine, I still tell him never to trust her near other people or dogs though. If you let her off lead she trots along beautifully right by your side and barely moves, but on a lead she thinks she's a lion! She has cuddled small children and adored them, and then done her best to bite adult's legs (please note the cuddled small children thing was before she ever bit anyone, she's never been trusted to get that close since).
I feel like my small dog has never gotten over being in a rescue etc, she's an insecure little thing but she's also a wonderful pet, she's just not quite wired right, but I don't think you ever really know what's in their past if they're a rescue. It's a big commitment having dogs like our's and I can see why people go out and buy puppies instead.
Ooooh I've just seen the lap thing too.
My girl did this at my other dog. As soon as she did it I picked her up and put her down on the floor. Didn't say anything or do anything else just removed her from me/sofa. She calmed down after a few weeks with that. My boy who's a big dog would come near for fuss and she would growl and if he didn't move (he wouldn't, he's like 'pffft you're tiny as if I'll listen to you...') she would lunge and try to bite his face. I think she just needed to realise she wasn't allowed to dictate everything and I do let her on the sofa etc now, she's the only one of my three allowed on actually they all get on like a house on fire too, no lasting effects. Had those two together for nearly five years now.
Could you get a behaviourist round to see her in action and give you their opinion/advice?
Yes, I might have to. Behaviour support from rescue hasnt been great. I am wondering if the rescue made an error of judgement really, a nervous dog and three year old arent a great mix. She's taken to disappearing upstairs quite often when DD is about. She's pooping up there too sometimes aswell (even though housetrained and knows to use garden)
It does sound like the rescue is of questionable quality. There are a lot of people with good intentions in the animal welfare world, some of whom don't always get it right.
On the plus side, the capacity of a chi to cause injury is not as great as that of a larger dog. Not no capacity, but I'd sooner be bitten by a chi than a great dane...
She does sound like a dog who is very anxious about the world - about other dogs, about people coming into her home etc.
Re the lap thing, it's really impossible for anyone to make any suggestions about it - it's a one off (so far), we haven't seen it in person and there are no clear patterns emerging. If it does start to become a pattern, it may be an issue around resource guarding (but at this stage, it may be absolutely nothing). Again, it's something for a behaviourist to help with.
Who are you insured with? Some companies, including PetPlan, will cover it. If you are willing to post your county I'm sure we could find a good behaviourist in your neck of the woods. Whatever you do, look for someone who uses positive reinforcement and avoid anyone who talks about pack leadership like the plague.
Thanks avocados. Insured with Legal and general.... I'll check if behaviour is covered. I'm in Gwent, South Wales.
South Wales can be a bit of a minefield and there are certainly a substantial number of dangerous quacks (Welsh Dog Whisperer springs to mind as being thoroughly awful).
However, in terms of people with the right qualifications, try
www.petbehaviourwales.co.uk/index.html (more towards Carmarthenshire)
If you can sort out the travel, Bristol has something of a cluster of good behaviourists e.g. www.co-evolve.co.uk/
Thank you very much Avocados much appreciated. I'll take a look
Just had a really stressful walk. Chi was barking at any humans approaching head on (more threatening head on? People to her side were OK)... She then escaped her lead chasing after a cat . Luckily she couldnt go too far as it was enclosed area in front of a house. It wasn't collar slipping either, the metal clip came away from metal ring on collar... In other news, she met dog sitting person today and was obviously nervous but after some initial barking, she came round. Walking is going to be a mare.... Don't think I'll be able to do it as a family thing. I can't supervise girls and ragey chi at same time
Is there anywhere you can take her with fewer people, or your usual area at a less busy time? For instance less popular woods or a secure dog walking field? www.dogwalkingfields.co.uk/ She's obviously finding these walks quite stressful too and each time she reacts she's practicing the behaviour and it essentially becomes more ingrained. Finding an area where there are fewer people will mean chi is less ragey and less stressed.
When I lived in London where motorbikes are bloody everywhere with a motorbike reactive dog, I took substantial detours and planned routes to avoid all but the quietest of roads. It made life a lot easier. Now we've moved somewhere with far fewer motorbikes, life seems a lot easier again!
One thing I did with my own 'tricky' dog was to switch from a collar to a Perfect Fit harness. I don't regret it because
a) it means he's no longer pulling on his throat when he reacts (an unpleasant sensation that he then associates with his triggers, which won't help)
b) on the few occasions I've had to grab him it gives me more to grab onto
c) there's no way he can slip a Perfect Fit harness
d) there's two points of contact, which means you can use a double ended lead and prevent a repeat of today
Good news about the boarder!
Thanks avocados. Tricky as I am on my own with two DDs so evening/night times are out. Going somewhere quieter would involve car journeys but I could at least do occasionally.
Yes, definitely need a more secure harness, I'll look in to one you suggest, thanks!
So you need to take her somewhere (on her own) where there are people walking past. Sit on a a bench with loads of tiny size high quality treats (sausages, cheese, chicken etc)
Every time someone approaches chuck her some treats. Feed the minute she see the person and keep feeding until they have passed.
Keep going until eventually she starts looking at you every time she spots someone. If she is still reacting, then you are a bit close, and need to go somewhere where people will pass further away.
Soon she will look at you when ever she sees someone, and you can use that on walks - either use the distraction of her looking at you to change direction/cross the road, or give her treats to walk past the person without reacting.
There's a FB group called Dog Training Advice and Support that will be able to help you work through all the issues.