Problem with MIL dog

(9 Posts)
cakeforme Sun 12-May-19 17:12:57

Just after some practical advice really. MIL has a rescue daschund which she dotes on. But the dog doesn't like children. In 2 years it has marginally improved. We can now generally get through a visit without it growling at my two DC 10 and 8 but it still randomly barks at them if they make sudden movements or at other people when we are out and about with her and it.

She has had a two dog behaviourists who have told her that it is a very frightened dog. It may well be but the last two years it has had no reason to be frightened.

My problem is that my MIL just won't acknowledge the issue so insists on bringing it to our house. Giving it top dog position at her house and sulking when we ignore it. We ignore it because the dog hates it when we try to interact with it so to me the least stress for everyone and especially the dog is to just leave it be. We've taught DC to respect it and only stroke it if it comes to them and to be aware of its body language.

What does anyone think I could do. The dog is a huge comfort and company to MIL as she lives alone but she repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the risks which gives us issues. Any tips for getting grumpy anti social dogs to just be more pleasant? Thanks.

Ps this is not a MIL bashing post just the situation we are in smile

OP’s posts: |
AvocadosBeforeMortgages Sun 12-May-19 18:54:48

The first thing to know is that a dog's fears don't have to be rational. My rescue dachshund x developed fears of German shepherds and motorbikes without ever having had a nasty experience with one. They're scary to him, and I have to work with his reality even though it is, to a human, illogical.

Pack leadership / alpha dog / dominance theory (which is presumably what you're referring to here) has been fairly thoroughly disproven.

You've been doing all the sensible things re leaving the dog alone and teaching the kids to read body language. To be honest it's your MIL who isn't being very sensible when she brings the dog with her.

You say there have been two behaviourists that have seen the dog and have said it's frightened. What did they recommend in terms of an action plan - and are you following it?

To be honest after two years I think the risk to your children is relatively low if you carry on as you are, but I don't think it's fair for the dog to be put in the position where it spends an extended period of time feeling frightened - and that's the approach I'd take with your MIL.

cakeforme Mon 13-May-19 08:58:42

Thanks for the reply and reassurance. Interesting link too. I totally agree it's not necessary to be dominant over a dog - it's more that she puts the dog first in all her decision making and above her grandchildren - but that might just be my emotional interpretation. I totally get how important the dog is to her day to day but for short periods I find it difficult to understand why she doesn't adapt to the dogs needs when around us. By all accounts she is a different dog when just the two of them.

The behaviourists were not that useful in what to do about the signs of aggression towards people and the lack of comfort with social interaction with people although they did help with the barking side of things with a water spray collar and they said pick the dog up when barking. This raises the dog to face level of my children which is more of a risk to me and means we have to pointedly ask her to put the dog down before the children can greet her.

We'll carry on as we are - managing the situation best we can and agree positioning what's best for the dog is most likely to land best with my MiL.

Truth is we do like dogs and are quite disappointed it's not one we can enjoy with her as we're not yet able to have our own.

OP’s posts: |
Wolfiefan Mon 13-May-19 09:02:48

Those behaviourists sound rubbish! Water spray is unpleasant and punishes the dog for being scared. Picking it up is too late. She needs to stop putting it in situations where it’s scared.
TBH I wouldn’t have it in my house. And I wouldn’t visit unless it was in a pen of some kind or on a lead. She clearly doesn’t understand this dog or how to tackle its behaviour and that puts your kids at risk. Frightened dogs bite.

cakeforme Mon 13-May-19 10:02:24

Thanks. The collar has not been used when we were there only when barking in house with her. So we've not added to that. She has done well with the dog in many ways but totally agree the behaviourists were rubbish. Or we haven't been told the full story is another possibility.

Will continue to be vigilant and restrict access. We have requested crate /pen and the dog is so much happier as feels safe but MIL thinks it's cruel and so has stopped using when we visit. We also relented recently allowing dog to come with her to ours. Now she thinks it can come every time. I was hoping I might be missing something but sounds like I'm doing all I can. It's just having an impact on wider relationship but my children do come first so will carry on.


OP’s posts: |
Baloonphobia Mon 13-May-19 10:10:32

You might just have to lay down the law with her. The dog doesn't cone to your house and goes in a crate when you visit. Or you don't visit. Up to her to decide her priorities.
My fil has a very crazy daschund puppy that scares our toddler DD and this is the choice I've given him.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Mon 13-May-19 10:16:23

Ah. I see your MIL has fallen into a common trap of Crap Behaviourists. Unfortunately the world of training and behaviour is completely unregulated, so any idiot can go into the industry with no qualifications whatsoever. Sadly you appear to have found two of these unsavoury characters. If you're willing to take a third go at behaviourists, then look for someone CCAB or APBC accredited - they're the gold standard qualifications. I saw one once with DDog and had an excellent outcome.

I really wouldn't do either of the water spraying or picking up options. For a frightened dog, these are only going to make things worse.

An analogy - Imagine you are scared of spiders and scream whenever you see one. Whenever you scream in these circumstances, your DP squirts you with water, which is unpleasant. You might learn not to scream when you see a spider, but you'll still be just as scared of it - possibly more so, because now you know that if you see a spider it's highly likely you'll be squirted with water. You're therefore still just as scared but unable to express it, so you may turn to different and less acceptable methods of expressing your fear than merely screaming. In other words, this is a good way to make issues worse.

Picking the dog up when it barks is going to do one of the following two things
- the dog considers being picked up to be pleasant and hence a reward. This makes the dog decide that barking is a sensible way to get something nice, and is therefore more likely to bark
- the dog is effectively being retained and cannot run away from the scary thing (children). Going back to the previous analogy, how would you feel if you were held down while the scary spider approached you? Think of fight vs flight - the flight option has been removed so the fight option is more likely to be used. You couldn't blame the dog for biting if MIL picked the dog up then gave the children a hug - as far as the dog is concerned it has no other option to get the scary thing away.

My first preference would absolutely be to cease contact between the kids and the dog. However, as MIL is clearly resistant, I would seek to reward the dog for calm behaviour around the kids. I would do this by taking some tiny tiny chunks of a delicious food that the dog doesn't get anywhere else - mature cheddar or hot dogs (the ones in a jar!) are excellent for this. If the dog has a delicate stomach, boiled chicken is a good option. Whenever the dog is calm and lying on its bed (which the children never, ever approach - it must be a safe space; site it as far away from the kids as possible, preferably away from the door) then either you or MIL, not the kids, keep dropping treats on the dog's bed - ideally so that the dog doesn't notice where they're coming from. For the first few visits, aim for a treat every few seconds. If the kids need to do something likely to trigger the dog, then drop lots of extra treats just before and as the kids move. This will help to build up a positive association between the kids being there, being calm and delicious things arriving.

However, I'm not a qualified behaviourist or a trainer and would advise seeing someone APBC or CCAB accredited.


AvocadosBeforeMortgages Mon 13-May-19 10:18:55

PS to be clear, don't ask the children to feed treats to the dog - you don't want to put the dog into a state of conflict where it has to approach the scary kids to get the nice thing.

You just want to reward the dog for watching calmly from a safe distance.

SlothMama Mon 13-May-19 10:40:41

She needs to see a proper, accredited behaviourist and put her family above the dog. We sometimes look after my FIL akita who is aggressive towards strangers and we shut him away if we have visitors. I don't want people to feel afraid in my home and it's just as much for his safety than theirs!

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